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Speleology in Kazakhstan

Shakalov on 04 Jul, 2018
Hello everyone!   I pleased to invite you to the official site of Central Asian Karstic-Speleological commission ("Kaspeko")   There, we regularly publish reports about our expeditions, articles and reports on speleotopics, lecture course for instructors, photos etc. ...

Speleology in Kazakhstan

Shakalov on 04 Jul, 2018
Hello everyone!   I pleased to invite you to the official site of Central Asian Karstic-Speleological commission ("Kaspeko")   There, we regularly publish reports about our expeditions, articles and reports on speleotopics, lecture course for instructors, photos etc. ...

Speleology in Kazakhstan

Shakalov on 11 Jul, 2012
Hello everyone!   I pleased to invite you to the official site of Central Asian Karstic-Speleological commission ("Kaspeko")   There, we regularly publish reports about our expeditions, articles and reports on speleotopics, lecture course for instructors, photos etc. ...

New publications on hypogene speleogenesis

Klimchouk on 26 Mar, 2012
Dear Colleagues, This is to draw your attention to several recent publications added to KarstBase, relevant to hypogenic karst/speleogenesis: Corrosion of limestone tablets in sulfidic ground-water: measurements and speleogenetic implications Galdenzi,

The deepest terrestrial animal

Klimchouk on 23 Feb, 2012
A recent publication of Spanish researchers describes the biology of Krubera Cave, including the deepest terrestrial animal ever found: Jordana, Rafael; Baquero, Enrique; Reboleira, Sofía and Sendra, Alberto. ...

Caves - landscapes without light

akop on 05 Feb, 2012
Exhibition dedicated to caves is taking place in the Vienna Natural History Museum   The exhibition at the Natural History Museum presents the surprising variety of caves and cave formations such as stalactites and various crystals. ...

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Your search for hypogenic caves (Keyword) returned 57 results for the whole karstbase:
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Occurrence of hypogenic caves in a karst region: examples from central Italy., 1995, Galdenzi S. , Menichetti M.

OCCURRENCE OF HYPOGENIC CAVES IN A KARST REGION - EXAMPLES FROM CENTRAL ITALY, 1995, Galdenzi S, Menichetti M,
The caves of the Umbria and Marche regions in central Italy are made up of three-dimensional maze systems that display different general morphologies due to the various geological and structural contexts. At the same time, the internal morphologies of the passages, galleries, and shafts present some similarity, with solutional galleries characterized by cupolas and blind pits, anastamotic passages, roof pendants, and phreatic passages situated at different levels. Some of these caves are still active, as is the case for Frassassi Gorge, Parrano Gorge, and Acquasanta Terme, with galleries that reach the phreatic zone, where there is a rising of highly mineralized water, rich in hydrosulfydric acid, and with erosion of limestone walls and the formation of gypsum. Elsewhere there are fossil caves, such as Monte Cucco and Pozzi della Piana, where large speleothems of gypsum are present 500 m or more above the regional water table. In all of these important karst systems it is possible to recognize basal input points through fracture and intergranular porosity networks at the base of the oxidizing zone in the core of the anticline, where mineralized water rises up from the Triassic evaporitic layers in small hydrogeological circuits. Different underground morphologies can derive from the presence of a water table related to an external stream or from the confined setting of the carbonate rocks, underlying low permeable sedimentary cover, where artesian conditions can occur

The hypogenic caves: a powerful tool for the study of seeps and their environmental effects, 2002, Forti P, Galdenzi S, Sarbu Sm,
Research performed in caves has shown the existence of significant effects of gas seeps, especially CO2 and H2S, within subterranean voids. Carbon dioxide causes important corrosive effects and creates characteristic morphologies (e.g., bell-shaped domes, bubble's trails), but is not involved in the deposition of specific cave minerals. On the other hand, in carbonate environments, hydrogen sulfide when oxidized in the shallow sections of the aquifer generates important corrosion effects and is also responsible for the deposition of specific minerals of which gypsum is the most common.Studies performed in the last few years have shown that H2S seeps in caves are associated with rich and diverse biological communities, consisting of large numbers of endemic species. Stable isotope studies (carbon and nitrogen) have demonstrated that these hypogean ecosystems are entirely based on in situ production of food by chemoautotrophic microorganisms using energy resulting from the oxidation of H2S.Although located only 20 m under the surface, Movile Cave does not receive meteoric waters due to a layer of impermeable clays and loess that covers the Miocene limestone in which the cave is developed. In the Frasassi caves, where certain amounts of meteoric water seep into the limestone, the subterranean ecosystems are still isolated from the surface. As the deep sulfidic waters mix with the oxigenated meteoric waters, sulfuric acid limestone corrosion is accelerated resulting in widespread deposition of gypsum onto the cave walls.Both these caves have raised a lot of interest for biological investigations regarding the chemoautotrophically based ecosystems, demonstrating the possibility of performing such studies in environments that are easily accessible and easy to monitor compared to the deep-sea environments where the first gas seeps were discovered

Hypogenic caves in Provence (France). Specific features and sediments, 2002, Audra Philippe, Bigot Jeanyves, Mocochain Ludovic

Two dry caves from French Provence (Adaouste and Champignons caves) were until now considered as "normal" caves having evolved under meteoric water flow conditions. A new approach gives evidence of a hypogenic origin from deep water uprising under artesian conditions. Specific morphologies and sediments associated with this hydrology are discussed.


Gypsum deposits in the Frasassi Caves, central Italy, 2003, Galdenzi, S. , Maruoka, T.
The Frasassi Caves are hypogenic caves in central Italy, where H2S-rich groundwater flows in the lowest cave level. Near the water table, the H2S is converted to sulfuric acid by biotic and abiotic processes, which have enhanced cave development. The sulfate generally deposits above the water table as a replacement gypsum crust coating limestone walls or as large gypsum crystals. Although the oxidation of sulfide also occurs below the water table, sulfate saturation is not achieved, therefore, sulfate does not precipitate below the water table. In the upper dry levels of the cave, three main types of ancient gypsum deposits occurs: (1) replacement crusts, similar to the presently forming deposits of the active zone, (2) microcrystalline large and thick floor deposits, and (3) euhedral crystals inside mud. The study of the depositional setting and the analysis of sulfur isotopes in the gypsum and groundwater clearly demonstrate that all the sampled gypsum in the cave formed by H2S oxidation above the water table. Some fraction of small sulfur isotopic differences between H2S in the water and gypsum can be explained by isotopic fractionation during abiotic and/or biotic oxidation of H2S.

Hypogenic caves in Provence (France): Specific features and sediments, 2003, Audra Ph, Bigot J. Y, Mocochain L.

Two dry caves from French Provence (Adaouste and Champignons caves) were until now considered as “normal” caves, evolved under meteoric water flow conditions. A new approach gives evidence of a hypogenic origin from deep water uprising under artesian conditions. Specific morphologies and sediments associated with this hydrology are discussed.


On feasibility of condensation corrosion in caves (Comment to the paper: ''Hypogenic caves in Provence (France): Specific features and sediments'' by Ph. Audra, J.Y. Bigot and L. Mocochain), 2003, Dreybrodt, W.

In Fig. 6 of this paper the authors suggest how condensation corrosion could shape ceiling cupolas. Hot water containing high concentration of carbon dioxide rises to a lake filling the lower part of the cave room. Degassing of CO2 creates a CO2-containing atmosphere, which is heated by the warmer water below and becomes saturated with vapor, which condenses to the cooler wall of the cave, dissolves limestone and flows back to the lake.
If this process would continue in time it would be perfect to shape large cupolas. However, it does not because condensation stops when the temperature of the cave walls approaches that of the heated air. The reason is that condensation of water at the cave wall releases heat of condensation of 2.45 kJoule/g. This corresponds to an energy flux of 28 Watt/square-meter if a film of 1 mm depth would condensate to the wall in one day. In addition there is also a flux of heat from the warm air to the cave wall. Since the thermal conductivity of limestone (1.3 Watt/m°K) and its thermal diffusivity (5.6 x 10-7 m2/s) are low this heat cannot be rapidly transported into the bedrock, and consequently the temperature of the cave wall rises. Therefore the amount of condensation is reduced. 

One further comment should be given. There have been attempts to measure the effect of condensation corrosion by suspending gypsum plates freely in the air and determining weight loss after a defined time. For the reasons stated above the heat of condensation and the heat flux from the air raise the temperature of such samples much quicker than that of the cave walls. Reliable measurements can only be performed when such samples are fixed to the cave walls by using a high thermal conductivity glue.

A further suggestion to prove condensed water on cave walls is to take samples and analyse them for Ca-concentration and 13 carbon isotopic ratio. Since CO2 comes from the atmosphere exclusively should be below or close to zero, and Ca-concentration should be about 0.6 mmol/liter, when the pCO2 of the cave atmosphere is atmospheric.


The influence of bedrock-derived acidity in the development of surface and underground karst: Evidence from the Precambrian carbonates of semi-arid northeastern Brazil, 2003, Auler As, Smart Pl,
Very extensive cave systems are developed in Precambrian Una Group carbonates in the Campo Formoso area, eastern Brazil. In contrast, the area is largely devoid of significant surface karst landforms, as would be expected given its semi-arid climate. The caves in the area display many morphological features characteristic of deep-seated hypogenic caves, such as lack of relationship with the surface, ramiform/network pattern, abrupt variations of passage cross-sections and absence of fluvial sediments, but do not show evidence of vertical passages marking the ascending path of acidic water nor present extensive gypsum or acid clay mineral deposits. Hydrochemical analyses of present-day ground water indicate that oxidation of bedrock sulphide is an active process, and sulphuric acid may be the main agent driving carbonate dissolution in the area. A shallow mode of speleogenesis is thus proposed, in which sulphuric acid produced through the oxidation of sulphide beds within the carbonates controls cave initiation and development. Moreover, the geological situation of the area in an ancient stable passive margin precludes the possibility of deep-seated sources of acidity. Under dry climate, due to the absence of recharge, solutional landforms will be largely subdued in the surface. Hypogenic processes, if present, are likely to predominate, producing a landscape characterized by a marked disparity in the comparative degree of development between surface and underground landforms. Rates of karst landform development have traditionally been analysed through a climatic perspective, runoff being the main controlling factor in promoting karst development. This view needs to be reassessed in the light of the growing awareness of the importance of climate-independent processes related to hypogenic sources of acidity.

Rates of condensation corrosion in speleothems of semi-arid northeastern Brazil, 2004, Auler A. S. , Smart P. L.

Condensation corrosion is a little studied, but important dissolutional process that occurs within caves in many karst settings around the world (for a review see Dublyansky and Dublyansky, 2000). Condensation corrosion occurs when air equilibrates with the cave atmosphere, becomes acidic and dissolves the bedrock and speleothems. It is a later vadose process that apparently depends on air circulation patterns, number of entrances and general configuration (vertical range, presence of ponded water, passage shape, etc) of the cave. Both bedrock and speleothems can be affected by the process, resulting in weathered outer surfaces. Condensation corrosion in speleogenesis has been regarded as responsible for dissolutional modification during later stages of cave development of coastal (Tarhule-Lips and Ford, 1998) and hypogenic caves (Hill, 1987; Palmer and Palmer, 2000).
Condensation corrosion is a little studied, but important dissolutional process that occurs within caves in many karst settings around the world (for a review see Dublyansky and Dublyansky, 2000). Condensation corrosion occurs when air equilibrates with the cave atmosphere, becomes acidic and dissolves the bedrock and speleothems. It is a later vadose process that apparently depends on air circulation patterns, number of entrances and general configuration (vertical range, presence of ponded water, passage shape, etc) of the cave. Both bedrock and speleothems can be affected by the process, resulting in weathered outer surfaces. Condensation corrosion in speleogenesis has been regarded as responsible for dissolutional modification during later stages of cave development of coastal (Tarhule-Lips and Ford, 1998) and hypogenic caves (Hill, 1987; Palmer and Palmer, 2000).
The Campo Formoso Karst area of northeastern Brazil holds very extensive cave systems, such as Southern Hemisphere’s longest cave, the 97 km long Toca da Boa Vista. These caves show remarkable features of condensation corrosion such as cupolas, weathered cave walls yielding dolomitic sand, “air scallops” and corroded speleothems. Weathering rinds up to 5 cm thick occur in both dolomite bedrock and speleothem surfaces. Unlike the dolomite, speleothems usually do not disintegrate but change to a milky white opaque porous calcite that is in marked contrast with the fresh crystalline calcite. The area is presently under semi-arid climate and the cave atmosphere is characterised by high internal temperatures (2729 °C) and low relative humidity (mean of 73% for sites away from entrances).
Despite being such a widespread process, rates of condensation corrosion have so far been reported only from caves in the coastal area of the Caribbean (Tarhule-Lips and Ford, 1998). In this study, rates of condensation corrosion in speleothems were derived by determining thickness of weathering rind and age of last unaltered calcite. These rates represent minimum rates because speleothem growth ceased later than age obtained, and also condensation corrosion may not be continuous in time. Due to variable thickness of weathering layer (usually thicker at the top and thinner at sides of stalagmites), maximum and minimum thickness were obtained for each sample. Dating was performed through the alpha spectrometric U-series method in the first unaltered calcite layer beyond the weathering rim. 
The rates obtained vary over two orders of magnitude. They appear to be highly site specific, and are probably heavily dependent on the local atmospheric conditions, although more sampling is needed to confirm this relationship. The data shows that rates are dependent primarily on thickness measured, as range of ages is quite small. Tarhule-Lips and Ford (1998), in the very different littoral caves of the Caribbean, have estimated condensation corrosion rates based on experiments using gypsum tablets. Their reported mean value of 24 mm/ka, much higher than observed in the Campo Formoso caves, suggest that the process may be episodic in the area, not occurring during speleothem growth phases associated with wetter periods.
Although the rates reported by Tarhule-Lips and Ford (1998) indicate that condensation corrosion may actually enlarge cave passages in the normal (10 4 – 10 6 ka) time range of speleogenesis, in the Campo Formoso caves the process appears to play a minor speleogenetic role, being responsible for later modification of cave walls and speleothems.


Hypogene Speleogenesis: Hydrogeological and Morphogenetic Perspective., 2007, Klimchouk A. B.

This book provides an overview of the principal environments, main processes and manifestations of hypogenic speleogenesis, and refines the relevant conceptual framework. It consolidates the notion of hypogenic karst as one of the two major types of karst systems (the other being epigenetic karst). Karst is viewed in the context of regional groundwater flow systems, which provide the systematic transport and distribution mechanisms needed to produce and maintain the disequilibrium conditions necessary for speleogenesis. Hypogenic and epigenic karst systems are regularly associated with different types, patterns and segments of flow systems, characterized by distinct hydrokinetic, chemical and thermal conditions. Epigenic karst systems are predominantly local systems, and/or parts of recharge segments of intermediate and regional systems. Hypogenic karst is associated with discharge regimes of regional or intermediate flow systems.

Various styles of hypogenic caves that were previously considered unrelated, specific either to certain lithologies or chemical mechanisms are shown to share common hydrogeologic genetic backgrounds. In contrast to the currently predominant view of hypogenic speleogenesis as a specific geochemical phenomenon, the broad hydrogeological approach is adopted in this book. Hypogenic speleogenesis is defined with reference to the source of fluid recharge to the cave-forming zone, and type of flow system. It is shown that confined settings are the principal hydrogeologic environment for hypogenic speleogenesis. However, there is a general evolutionary trend for hypogenic karst systems to lose their confinement due to uplift and denudation and due to their own expansion. Confined hypogenic caves may experience substantial modification or be partially or largely overprinted under subsequent unconfined (vadose) stages, either by epigenic processes or continuing unconfined hypogenic processes, especially when H2S dissolution mechanisms are involved.

Hypogenic confined systems evolve to facilitate cross-formational hydraulic communication between common aquifers, or between laterally transmissive beds in heterogeneous soluble formations, across cave-forming zones. The latter originally represented low-permeability, separating units supporting vertical rather than lateral flow. Layered heterogeneity in permeability and breaches in connectivity between different fracture porosity structures across soluble formations are important controls over the spatial organization of evolving ascending hypogenic cave systems. Transverse hydraulic communication across lithological and porosity system boundaries, which commonly coincide with major contrasts in water chemistry, gas composition and temperature, is potent enough to drive various disequilibrium and reaction dissolution mechanisms. Hypogenic speleogenesis may operate in both carbonates and evaporites, but also in some clastic rocks with soluble cement. Its main characteristic is the lack of genetic relationship with groundwater recharge from the overlying or immediately adjacent surface. It may not be manifest at the surface at all, receiving some expression only during later stages of uplift and denudation. In many instances, hypogenic speleogenesis is largely climate- independent.

There is a specific hydrogeologic mechanism inherent in hypogenic transverse speleogenesis (restricted input/output) that suppresses the positive flow-dissolution feedback and speleogenetic competition in an initial flowpath network. This accounts for the development of more pervasive channeling and maze patterns in confined settings where appropriate structural prerequisites exist. As forced-flow regimes in confined settings are commonly sluggish, buoyancy dissolution driven by either solute or thermal density differences is important in hypogenic speleogenesis.

In identifying hypogenic caves, the primary criteria are morphological (patterns and meso-morphology) and hydrogeological (hydrostratigraphic position and recharge/flow pattern viewed from the perspective of the evolution of a regional groundwater flow system). Elementary patterns typical for hypogenic caves are network mazes, spongework mazes, irregular chambers and isolated passages or crude passage clusters. They often combine to form composite patterns and complex 3- D structures. Hypogenic caves are identified in various geological and tectonic settings, and in various lithologies. Despite these variations, resultant caves demonstrate a remarkable similarity in cave patterns and meso-morphology, which strongly suggests that the hydrogeologic settings were broadly identical in their formation. Presence of the characteristic morphologic suites of rising flow with buoyancy components is one of the most decisive criteria for identifying hypogenic speleogenesis, which is much more widespread than was previously presumed. Hypogenic caves include many of the largest, by integrated length and by volume, documented caves in the world.

The refined conceptual framework of hypogenic speleogenesis has broad implications in applied fields and promises to create a greater demand for karst and cave expertise by practicing hydrogeology, geological engineering, economic geology, and mineral resource industries. Any generalization of the hydrogeology of karst aquifers, as well as approaches to practical issues and resource prospecting in karst regions, should take into account the different nature and characteristics of hypogenic and epigenic karst systems. Hydraulic properties of karst aquifers, evolved in response to hypogenic speleogenesis, are characteristically different from epigenic karst aquifers. In hypogenic systems, cave porosity is roughly an order of magnitude greater, and areal coverage of caves is five times greater than in epigenic karst systems. Hypogenic speleogenesis commonly results in more isotropic conduit permeability pervasively distributed within highly karstified areas measuring up to several square kilometers. Although being vertically and laterally integrated throughout conduit clusters, hypogenic systems, however, do not transmit flow laterally for considerable distances. Hypogenic speleogenesis can affect regional subsurface fluid flow by greatly enhancing initially available cross- formational permeability structures, providing higher local vertical hydraulic connections between lateral stratiform pathways for groundwater flow, and creating discharge segments of flow systems, the areas of low- fluid potential recognizable at the regional scale. Discharge of artesian karst springs, which are modern outlets of hypogenic karst systems, is often very large and steady, being moderated by the high karstic storage developed in the karstified zones and by the hydraulic capacity of an entire artesian system. Hypogenic speleogenesis plays an important role in conditioning related processes such as hydrothermal mineralization, diagenesis, and hydrocarbon transport and entrapment.

An appreciation of the wide occurrence of hypogenic karst systems, marked specifics in their origin, development and characteristics, and their scientific and practical importance, calls for revisiting and expanding the current predominantly epigenic paradigm of karst and cave science.


Cave Geology, 2007, Palmer A. N.
Cave Geology is the definitive book on the subject by an internationally recognized authority. It can be easily understood by non-scientists but also covers a wide range of topics in enough detail to be used by advanced researchers. Illustrated with more than 500 black-and-white photographs and 250 diagrams and maps, this book is dedicated to anyone with an interest in caves and their origin. Topics include: CONTENTS Preface 1 Speleology the science of caves Cave types Cave exploring Nationwide speleological organizations Searching for caves Cave mapping Preparation of a cave map Cave science Underground photography Show caves Cave preservation and stewardship 2 Cave country Geologic time Landscape development Surface karst features Paleoleokarst Pseudokarst The scale of karst features Distribution of karst and caves The longest and deepest known caves 3 Cavernous rocks Rock types Soils and sediments Stratigraphy Highly soluble rocks Rock structure Rock and mineral analysis A brief guide to rock identification 4 Underground water in karst Types of underground water Vadose flow patterns Phreatic flow patterns Aquifers Nature of the karst water table The freshwater-seawater interface Groundwater hydraulics Flow measurements Use of flow equations in cave interpretation Measuring the flow of springs and streams Groundwater tracing Interpreting groundwater character from tracer tests and flood pulses Quantitative dye tracing 5 Chemistry of karst water Simple dissolution Dissoltion of limestone and dolomite How much rock has dissolved? pH Undersaturation and supersaturation Epigenic and hypogenic acids Chemical interactions Dissolution rates Dissolution of poorly soluble rocks Microbial effects on chemistry Isotopes and their use Analysis of spring chemistry A chemical cave tour Chemical field studies 6 Characteristics of solution caves Cave entrances Passage types Passage terminations Cave rooms Cave levels Cave patterns Minor solution features in caves Interpreting flow from scallops Cave sediments Bedrock collapse Cave biology 7 Speleogenesis: the origin of caves Basic concepts Development of ideas about cave origin Comprehensive views of cave origin Rates of cave enlargement Insight from computer modeling Life cycle of a solution cave 8 Control of cave patterns by groundwater recharge Sinkhole recharge: branchwork caves The problem of maze caves Floodwater caves Caves formed by diffuse flow Hypogenic caves Polygenetic caves Influence of climate 9 Influence of geology on cave patterns Distribution of soluble rocks Influence of rock type Influence of geologic structure Relation of caves to landscape evolution A guide to cave patterns 10 Cave minerals Origin and growth of cave minerals Origin of common cave minerals Speleothem types Speleothem growth rates Speleothem decay 11 Caves in volcanic rocks Volcanic processes and landscapes Types of lava caves Origin and character of lava-tube caves Speleogens and speleothems in lava caves Time scale of lava caves 12 Cave meteorology and internal weathering Composition of cave air Cave temperatures Air movement Evaporation and condensation Weathering in the cave atmosphere Chemical zones in air-filled caves 13 Caves and time Relative and numerical ages Determining cave ages Studies of past climates Caves through the ages 14 Geologic studies of caves Field mapping Calibrating survey instruments Geologic interpretions Testing interpretations for validity Detailed analysis of a cave Further goals 15 Application of cave geology to other geosciences The problem of sampling bias Water supply Engineering applications Land management Interpretation of geologic processes Petroleum geology Mining Scientific frontiers The limits of discovery Glossary References Index Conversion between U.S. and metric units

The polygenetic caves of Cuatro Cinegas (Coahuila, Mexico): morphology and speleogenesis., 2007, Piccini Leonardo, Forti Paolo, Giulivo Italo, Mecchia Marco
The Cuatro Cinegas area is renown worldwide for its thermal springs, which feed a unique ecosystem consisting of many pools, lakes and marshes. The pools also represent a very important water resource in a region characterized by scarce rainfalls. Field investigation has emphasized the role of karst in the hydrogeology of the area. Only few and restricted forms of surface karst are represented; caves are mainly relics of old speleogenetic phases of thermal and bathyphreatic water flow.

The role of condensation-corrosion in thermal speleogenesis: Study of a hypogenic sulfidic cave in Aix-les-Bains, France, 2007, Audra P. , Hoblea F. , Bigot J. Y. , Nobecourt J. C.

Condensation-corrosion is an active speleogenetical process in thermal caves where high thermal gradient drives air convection. Wall retreat rates are greater than in meteoric caves. Conversely, evaporation produces depositional processes by replacement of limestone by gypsum and by aerosol decantation leading to the formation of popcorns. The Chevalley Aven belongs to Aix-les-Bains thermal-sulfidic cave system. Condensation occurs at the contact of cool walls of large spheres; conversely, evaporation occurs at the output of the narrow passages where the air sinks down from the upper sphere. A weathered layer and biofilms are present where slow condensation occurs. Corrosion distribution varies according to thermal rock conductivity and causes the sphere to develop upwards, laterally, and divergent. This mor­phodynamic pattern favors the development of stacked spheres, isolated by narrow necks, and arranged in a bush-like pattern. This development is clearly active in the vadose zone above the thermal water table. We propose that some avens above wa­ter table hypogenic caves, like Villa Luz (Mexico), may be of condensation-corrosion origin instead of phreatic. Future de­velopment will collect physical and chemical data to calculate the condensation-corrosion budget and assess its role in cave development.


Epigene and Hypogene Gypsum Karst Manifestations of the Castile Formation: Eddy County, New Mexico and Culberson County, Texas, USA., 2008, Stafford K. , Nance R. , Rosaleslagarde L. And Boston P. J.
Permian evaporites of the Castile Formation crop out over ~1,800 km2 in the western Delaware Basin (Eddy County, New Mexico and Culberson County, Texas, USA) with abundant and diverse karst manifestations. Epigene karst occurs as well-developed karren on exposed bedrock, while sinkholes dominate the erosional landscape, including both solutional and collapse forms. Sinkhole analyses suggest that more than half of all sinks are the result of upward stoping of subsurface voids, while many solutional sinks are commonly the result of overprinting of collapsed forms. Epigene caves are laterally limited with rapid aperture decreases away from insurgence, with passages developed along fractures and anticline fold axes. Hypogene karst occurs as diverse manifestations, forming the deepest and longest caves within the region as well as abundant zones of brecciation. Hypogene caves exhibit a wide range of morphologies from complex maze and anastomotic patterns to simple, steeply dipping patterns, but all hypogene caves exhibit morphologic features (i.e. risers, outlet cupolas and half-tubes) that provide a definitive suite of evidence of dissolution within a mixed convection (forced and free convection) hydrologic system. Extensive blanket breccias, abundant breccia pipes and numerous occurrences of calcitized evaporites indicate widespread hypogene speleogenesis throughout the entire Castile Formation. Although most cave and karst development within the Castile outcrop region appears to have hypogene origins, epigene processes are actively overprinting features, creating a complex speleogenetic evolution within the Castile Formation.

HYPOGENE KARST AND SULFATE DIAGENESIS OF THE DELAWARE BASIN: SOUTHEASTERN NEW MEXICO AND FAR WEST TEXAS, PhD Thesis , 2008, Stafford, Kevin Wayne

Hypogene speleogenesis is widespread throughout the Delaware Basin region as evidenced by intrastratal dissolution, hypogenic caves and suites of diagenetic minerals. The world famous carbonate caves of the Capitan reef facies of the Guadalupe Mountains have long been associated with sulfuric acid processes and recently have been associated with semi-confined, hypogene dissolution. However, evaporite karst within Permian backreef and basin-filling facies has been traditionally associated with surficial, epigene processes. On the eastern edge of the Delaware Basin cavernous porosity associated with oil reservoirs in Permian carbonates have been attributed to eogenetic karst processes.
Interbedded (evaporite / carbonate), backreef facies within the mid-Permian Seven Rivers Formation exhibit characteristics of hypogene karst associated with semi-confined dissolution controlled by the eastward migration and entrenchment of the Pecos River. Coffee Cave is a good example of hypogene dissolution, forming a multi-storey, rectilinear maze with abundant distinctive morphologic feature suites (i.e. risers, channels and cupolas) indicative of hypogene speleogenesis. Other caves within the Seven Rivers and Rustler Formations show similar patterns, although often less well developed.
Within the Delaware Basin, Castile Formation evaporites have been extensively modified by hypogene processes. Field mapping coupled with GIS analyses clearly shows that karst development and evaporite calcitization are highly clustered throughout the outcrop area. Individual caves commonly exhibit complex morphologies, including complete suites of morphologic features indicative of intrastratal dissolution. Clusters of hypogene caves are commonly associated with clusters of evaporite calcitization and often occurrences of secondary selenite bodies, suggesting all three are genetically related. Brecciated cores and associated native sulfur deposits indicate that calcitized evaporites are the result of semi-confined sulfate reduction in the presence of ascending hydrocarbons. Hypogene caves are currently being overprinted by epigene processes as surface denudation results in breaching of previously confined solutional conduits. However, calcitized evaporites stand as resistant masses attesting to the widespread importance of hypogene processes within the Castile Formation.
On the southern end of the Central Basin Platform, the spatial distribution of cavernous porosity, secondary mineralization and abundant karst fabrics within the Yates Field carbonate strata provide convincing evidence that karst porosity, at least locally, within the San Andres and overlying Permian strata is the result of hypogene speleogenesis. Porosity development appears to have been enhanced by high geothermal gradients and the addition of sulfuric acid-rich fluids, reminiscent of the same processes that have been proposed for the extensive carbonate caves of the Guadalupe Mountains.
Recognition of the widespread occurrence of hypogene speleogenesis throughout the Delaware Basin region indicates that the regional diagenetic evolution has been significantly affected by confined fluid migration, including not only the development of porosity but also the emplacement of many secondary mineral deposits. Therefore, future natural resource management plans must consider the nature of hypogene karst in site evaluations throughout the region in order to better predict geohazards, potential groundwater contamination and characterize mineral resources.


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