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Featured article from karst/cave journal

Caves and Karst Science/Cave and Karst Science, 2011, Vol 38, Issue 1, p. 31-52
Ogof Draenen: speleogenesis of a hydrological see-saw from the karst of South Wales
Abstract:

 Discovered in 1994, Ogof Draenen is currently the longest cave in Britain and among the thirty longest caves in the World, with a surveyed length in excess of 70km. Like other great caves, Ogof Draenen has had a complex multiphase history. This interpretation of the genesis of the cave is based on speleo-morphological observations throughout the system. Evidence of at least four phases of cave development can be identified, associated with major shifts in resurgence location and changes in flow direction of up to 180°. Joints have had a dominant influence on passage genesis. In particular joints have facilitated the development of maze networks and remarkably shallow horizontal phreatic conduits. The amplitude of these conduits is much shallower than predicted by models based on flow path length and stratal dip. Here, we suggest that presence of laterally extensive open joints, orientated perpendicular to the regional neo-tectonic principal stress field, determines the depth of flow in the aquifer, rather than fissure frequency per se as suggested in Ford’s Four State Model. We argue that the rate of base-level lowering, coupled with the depth of karstification determines whether a cave responds by phreatic capture or vadose incision. Maze cave networks within Ogof Draenen were probably initiated by bedrock-hosted sulphide oxidation and sulphuric acid speleogenesis.

(Note: Welsh terms used in this paper: Ogof = Cave; Afon = River; Cwm = Valley; Mynydd = Mountain).