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Featured article from karst/cave journal

NSS
Journal of Cave and Karst Studies, 2010, Vol 72, Issue 2, p. 61-74
Coastal cave in Bahamain eolian calcarenites: Differentiating between sea caves and flank margin caves using quantitative morphology
Abstract:

Coastal areas on carbonate islands commonly contain two types of caves: sea caves developed by wave erosion processes, and flank margin caves developed by dissolution at the edge of the fresh-water lens. Differentiating sea caves and flank margin caves in coastal settings is important, but can it be done reliably and quantitatively? Current methods use the degree of intricate wall-rock dissolution and the presence or absence of dense calcite speleothems to separate the two cave types. This study reports how analysis of cave maps creates three separate tools to differentiate coastal caves: area to perimeter ratio, entrance width to maximum width ratio, and rectangle short axis to long axis ratio. The study also presents some of the first sea cave data from eogenetic carbonate islands, specifically eolian calcarenites. The morphological and geometrical comparisons between Bahamian flank margin cave and sea cave maps using the three tools allows the two cave types to be statistically differentiated. The Bahamian sea cave data were also compared to sea cave data from California and Maine to demonstrate that Bahamian sea caves have a unique quantitative signature based on the youth and homogeneity of the host eolian calcarenite rock. The Bahamian sea cave data also indicate that sea cave formation may not be solely determined by differential rock weaknesses, as reported in the literature, but may also be a result of wave dynamics such as constructive interference.