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Speleogenesis issues:

Republished from Gabrovšek, F. (Ed.), Evolution of karst: from prekarst to cessation. Postojna-Ljubljana, Zalozba ZRC, 43-60. Open link

UIS KHS Commission
Speleogenesis in carbonate rocks
Abstract:

This paper outlines the current views on cave origin in carbonate rocks, combining ideas from a variety of sources. A typical dissolution cave develops in several stages that grade smoothly from one to the next: (1) Initial openings are slowly enlarged by water that is nearly at solutional equilibrium with the local bedrock. (2) As the early routes enlarge, those with the greatest amount of flow grow fastest. (3) These favoured routes eventually become wide enough that groundwater is able to retain most of its solutional aggressiveness throughout the entire distance to the spring outlets. This breakthrough time usually requires times on the order of 104 to 105 years and ends the inception phase of speleogenesis. (4) Discharge along these selected routes increases rapidly, allowing them to enlarge into cave passages rather uniformly over their entire length. Maximum enlargement rates are roughly 0.001-0.1 cm/yr, depending on the local water chemistry and lithology. (5) The cave acquires a distinct passage pattern that depends on the nature of groundwater recharge, the geologic setting, and the erosional history of the region. Branchwork patterns dominate in most carbonate aquifers. Maze caves are produced by any of the following: steep hydraulic gradients (e.g. during floods), short flow paths, uniform recharge to many openings, and mixing of waters that contrast in chemistry. (6) Enlargement rate usually decreases as passages become air-filled, owing to loss of aggressiveness as carbon dioxide escapes through openings to the surface. (7) The cave typically evolves by diversion of water to new and lower routes as the fluvial base level drops. (8) The cave is eventually destroyed by roof collapse and by intersection of passages by surface erosion. At any given time, different parts of the same cave may be experiencing different stages in this sequence.