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Featured article from karst/cave journal

Cave and Karst Science, 2010, Vol 37, Issue 3, p. 79-92
An external model of speleogenesis during Quaternary glacial cycles in the marbles of central Scandinavia

The marble caves of the Central Scandinavian Caledonides were formed from open fractures that were created primarily by deglacial seismicity at the culmination of each of the many complex Quaternary glaciations that the region has experienced. Subsequent inundation by deglacial ice-dammed lakes enabled phreatic enlargement by dissolution, with passages either becoming relict during the following interglacial or else being entrenched by (mainly) vadose processes if recharged by allogenic streams. Because the distance of the contemporary fractures and therefore the cave passages from the nearest land surface is commonly constrained to be less than one-eighth of the depth of the local glaciated valley, the caves are rather epigean in nature. This subsurface cave distance is of the same order of magnitude as the thickness of rock removed from valley walls and floors at each major glaciation, suggesting that, when viewed over several glacial cycles, caves are involved in a race to develop deeper during deglaciation and the following interglacial before their upper levels are removed by erosion at the next glaciation. Indeed, relatively few cave passages in the study area can have survived from the previous, Eemian, interglacial.
This paper examines evidence for the interglacial and erosional processes and utilises a 'black box' approach to provide an external model for cave development and removal. It proposes that Caledonide marble caves in stripe karst outcrops should especially be considered as four-dimensional objects throughout their commonly intermittent existence. Mainly vadose caves are regarded as 'half-cycle' caves that developed primarily in the Holocene. Relict caves (primarily phreatic) and combination caves (with both phreatic and vadose elements) are commonly 'single-cycle' caves that developed their relict phreatic passages during Weichselian deglaciation, and only a few are 'multi-cycle' caves that have experienced several Pleistocene glacial cycles. The existing caves are more numerous and commonly larger than those that were present during previous interglacials.