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Enviroscan Ukrainian Institute of Speleology and Karstology


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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. ...

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. ...

Did you know?

That barrier is a geological formation or part of a formation having become impervious to ground-water flow due to a facies change [16].?

Checkout all 2699 terms in the KarstBase Glossary of Karst and Cave Terms


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KarstBase a bibliography database in karst and cave science.

Featured articles from Cave & Karst Science Journals
Chemistry and Karst, White, William B.
See all featured articles
Featured articles from other Geoscience Journals
Karst environment, Culver D.C.
Mushroom Speleothems: Stromatolites That Formed in the Absence of Phototrophs, Bontognali, Tomaso R.R.; D’Angeli Ilenia M.; Tisato, Nicola; Vasconcelos, Crisogono; Bernasconi, Stefano M.; Gonzales, Esteban R. G.; De Waele, Jo
Calculating flux to predict future cave radon concentrations, Rowberry, Matt; Marti, Xavi; Frontera, Carlos; Van De Wiel, Marco; Briestensky, Milos
Microbial mediation of complex subterranean mineral structures, Tirato, Nicola; Torriano, Stefano F.F;, Monteux, Sylvain; Sauro, Francesco; De Waele, Jo; Lavagna, Maria Luisa; D’Angeli, Ilenia Maria; Chailloux, Daniel; Renda, Michel; Eglinton, Timothy I.; Bontognali, Tomaso Renzo Rezio
Evidence of a plate-wide tectonic pressure pulse provided by extensometric monitoring in the Balkan Mountains (Bulgaria), Briestensky, Milos; Rowberry, Matt; Stemberk, Josef; Stefanov, Petar; Vozar, Jozef; Sebela, Stanka; Petro, Lubomir; Bella, Pavel; Gaal, Ludovit; Ormukov, Cholponbek;
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Your search for sea-level (Keyword) returned 179 results for the whole karstbase:
Showing 166 to 179 of 179
Underwater Caves of the Yucatn Peninsula, 2012,
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Coke Iv, James G.

The Yucatán Peninsula is one of the largest limestone platforms in the world. The Mexico isthmus region of the peninsula is a low-relief pitted karst plain containing few surface drainage systems or lakes. Karst windows punctuate the scrubby terrain, exposing a shallow aquifer that engulfs an ancient dry cave environment. These openings, called cenotes, allow modern explorers to document a growing assemblage of deep underwater sinks, and exceptionally long and complex underwater cave systems. Deep classic sinks are common to the interior of the isthmus. Long horizontal caves remain a coastal phenomenon. Their complexity is derived from irregular sea-level fluctuations produced during Pleistocene glaciations. Fractures within the parent strata and tidal fluctuations of the halocline are crucial elements in sustaining extant speleogenesis.


Late Quaternary Sea-level History: a Speleothem Perspective, 2012,
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Onac B. P. , Gins A. , Gins J. , Forns J. J. , Dorale J. A.


Formation and development of a karstic system below and above sea level in Messinian Mani Peninsula (S. Greece), 2012,
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Papadopoulou Vrynioti Kyriaki, Kampolis Isidoros

At the western shores of Messinian Mani Peninsula in South Greece, the composite, integrated karstic system of ‘‘Selinitsa’’ cave and ‘‘Drakos’’ underground river is developed above and below sea-level respectively, in the medium-bedded limestones of the Mani geotectonic unit. The formation and the development of these caves started, most likely, during Middle Pleistocene. Initially, these caves were terrestrial and developed separately. They were connected probably during Holocene through a fi ssure. The development of this united karstic system is controlled by tectonics. ‘‘Selinitsa’’ cave is older than ‘‘Drakos’’. The sequential base levels of karstifi cation demonstrate the continuous sea-level changes during Pleistocene and Holocene, induced by the relative tectonic activity. This united karstic system is characterized by ‘incomplete linkage’ to the sea.


Flank margin caves in carbonate islands and the effects of sea level., 2013,
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Mylroie J. E. , Mylroie J. R.

Flank margin caves form in the diffuse flow field of the distal margin of the freshwater lens on carbonate islands and coasts. Dissolution is governed by superposition of mixing zones at the top and bottom of the lens. Flow velocities in the lens margins and organic decay at the lens boundaries enhance dissolution. These caves grow from isolated initiation points in the lens into chambers that amalgamate to form complex, vertically restricted, globular-chamber complexes. The caves and their deposits accurately represent sea-level position and paleoclimate but must be successfully differentiated from sea caves and other pseudokarst features..


The vertical dimension of karst: controls of vertical cave pattern, 2013,
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Audra P. , Palmer A. N.

The vertical development of karst is related to the geomorphic evolution of the surrounding landscape. Cave profiles and levels reflect the local fluvial base level and its changes through time. These cave features tend to be preserved far longer than correlative surface features, which are more susceptible to weathering and erosion. As a result, cave morphology offers abundant clues that are helpful in reconstructing the regional geomorphic history. In the vadose zone, water is drawn downward by gravity along vertical fractures. In the phreatic zone, water follows the hydraulic gradient along the most efficient paths to available outlets in nearby valleys. Phreatic passages tend to have gentler gradients close to the water table, generally with some vertical sinuosity. Responding to irregular recharge rates, fluctuations in the water table define a transition zone, the epiphreatic zone, in which passages develop by floodwater flow. Free-surface flow in the vadose zone and full pipe flow in the phreatic zone produce distinctive passage morphologies. Identification of former vadose–phreatic transition zones makes it possible to reconstruct the position of former water tables that represent past static fluvial base levels. Early conceptual models considered cave origin mainly in relation to its position relative to the water table. Later, analytical and digital models showed that dramatic enlargement occurs when dissolutional enlargement of initial fissures is sufficient to allow rapid dissolution and turbulent flow to take place throughout the entire conduit length. Cave development is favored by the widest initial openings, and less importantly by the steepest hydraulic gradients and shortest flow distances. Consequently, most phreatic cave development takes place at or near the water table, but the presence of relatively wide fractures can lead to phreatic loops. Cave levels record successive base-level positions as valleys deepen. The oldest levels in Mammoth Cave (USA) and Clearwater Cave (Malaysia) have been dated beyond 3.5 Ma. However, when base level rises, the deepest parts of the karst are flooded and the flow follows phreatic lifts. In the epiphreatic zone, floodwater produces looping tubes above the low-flow water table. In these last two situations, high-level passages with large vertical loops are not necessarily the oldest. The juvenile pattern, composed of steep vadose passages, is common when soluble rock is first exposed. In perched aquifers, vadose erosion can produce very large cross sections. In dammed aquifers, the main drain is established at the water table. Irregular recharge causes backflooding, and passages develop throughout the epiphreatic zone, with looping profiles; however, when recharge is fairly regular, the passages develop along the stable water table. Interconnected cave levels correspond to some of the largest cave systems in the world. When base level rises, the karst is flooded; water rises through phreatic lifts and discharges at vauclusian springs. A per ascensum speleogenesis can produce higher-elevation passages that are younger than passages at lower elevations. Base-level rises occur after tectonic subsidence, filling of valleys, or sea-level rise, especially around the Mediterranean in response to the Messinian Salinity Crisis. Deep-phreatic karst, if not hypogenic, can generally be attributed to flooding by a base-level rise. 


Discussion on the article Coastal and inland karst morphologies driven by sea level stands: a GIS based method for their evaluation by Canora F, Fidelibus D and Spilotro G, 2013,
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De Waele Jo, Parise Mario

Comments are presented on the article by Canora et al. (2012) dealing with karst morphologies driven by sea level stands in the Murge plateau of Apulia, southern Italy. Our comments start from cave levels, that are considered in the cited article as a proof of sea level stands. We argue that the presence of sub-horizontal passages in cave systems is not a sufficient condition for correlating them with hypothetical past sea level stands. Such a correlation must be based upon identification of speleogenetic features within the karst systems, and/or geological field data. The problems encountered when using cave surveys for scientific research, and their low reliability (especially in the case of old surveys) are then treated, since they represent a crucial point in the paper object of this discussion. Eventually, we present some final consideration on cave levels and terraces, and on the specific case study, pointing out once again to the need in including geological field data to correctly find a correspondance between flat landforms and sea level fluctuations. Our main conclusion is that field data and information on speleogenesis of the underground karst landforms cannot be disregarded in a study that claims to deal with the influence of sea-level changes on caves.


Marine seismic-reflection data from the southeastern Florida Platform: a case for hypogenic karst, 2013,
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Cunningham, Kevin J.

Recent acquisition of twenty marine seismic-reflection profiles suggests a hypogenic karst origin for the Key Biscayne sinkhole located on the seafloor of Miami Terrace at the southeastern part of Florida Platform. Analysis of the seismic-reflection data strongly suggest the submarine sinkhole was produced by dissolution and collapse of Plio(?)-Pleistocene age carbonate strata. A complex fault system that includes compres-sional reverse faults underlies the sinkhole, providing a physical system for the possible exchange of groundwater with the sinkhole. One seismic profile is suggestive of a mas-ter feeder pipe beneath the sinkhole. The feeder pipe is characterized by seismic-reflection configurations that resemble megabreccia and stratal collapse. The sinkhole is located at a depth of about 365 m below sea level. The record of sea-level change dur-ing the Plio(?)-Pleistocene and amount of subsidence of the Florida Platform during this span of time indicates that the sinkhole has always been submerged at a water depth of about 235 m or more. Thus, the near-surface epigenic karst paradigm can be ruled out. Possible hypogenic models for sinkhole formation include ascending fluids along the fault system, such as, dissolution related to the freshwater/saltwater mixing at a regional groundwater discharge site, or processes related to gases derived from gener-ation of hydrocarbons within deep Mesozoic strata. Hydrocarbon-related karstification provides several possible scenarios: (1) oxidation of deep oil-field derived hydrogen sulfide at or near the seafloor to form sulfuric acid, (2) reduction of Cretaceous or Paleocene anhydrite or both by oil-field methane to form hydrogen sulfide and later oxidation to form sulfuric acid, and (3) carbon-dioxide charged groundwater reacting to form carbonic acid. Further, anerobic microbes could form methane outside of a hy-drocarbon reservoir that ascends through anhydrite to form hydrogen sulfide and later oxidized to sulfuric acid.


Quaternary glacial cycles: Karst processes and the global CO2 budget, 2013,
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Larson Erik B. , Mylroie John E.

Extensive research has been conducted investigating the relationship between karst processes, carbonate deposition and the global carbon cycle. However, little work has been done looking into the relationship between glaciations, subsequent sea level changes, and aerially exposed land masses in relation to karstic processes and the global carbon budget. During glaciations sea-level exposed the world’s carbonate platforms. with the sub-aerial exposure of the platforms, karst processes can occur, and the dissolution of carbonate material can commence, resulting in the drawdown of CO2 from the atmosphere as HCO3−. Furthermore, the material on the platform surfaces is primarily aragonite which is more readily soluble than calcite allowing karst processes to occur more quickly. During glaciations arctic carbonates and some of the temperate carbonates are blanketed in ice, effectively removing those areas from karst processes. Given the higher solubility of aragonite, and the extent of carbonate platforms exposed during glaciations, this dissolution balances the CO2 no longer taken up by karst processes at higher latitudes that were covered during the last glacial maximum The balance is within 0.001 GtC / yr, using soil pCO2 (0.005 GtC / yr assuming atmospheric pCO2) which is a difference of <1% of the total amount of atmospheric CO2 removed in a year by karst processes. Denudation was calculated using the maximum potential dissolution formulas of Gombert (2002). On a year to year basis the net amount of atmospheric carbon removed through karstic processes is equivalent between the last glacial maximum and the present day, however, the earth has spent more time in a glacial configuration during the quaternary, which suggests that there is a net drawdown of atmospheric carbon during glaciations from karst processes, which may serve as a feedback to prolong glacial episodes. This research has significance for understanding the global carbon budget during the quaternary.


Discussion on the article ‘Coastal and inland karst morphologies driven by sea level stands: a GIS based method for their evaluation’ by Canora F, Fidelibus D and Spilotro G, 2013,
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Waele J. D. , Parise M.

Comments are presented on the article by Canora et al. (2012) dealing with karst morphologies driven by sea level stands in the Murge plateau of Apulia, southern Italy. Our comments start from cave levels, that are considered in the cited article as a proof of sea level stands. We argue that the presence of sub-horizontal passages in cave systems is not a sufficient condition for correlating them with hypothetical past sea level stands. Such a correlation must be based upon identification of speleogenetic features within the karst systems, and/or geological field data. The problems encountered when using cave surveys for scientific research, and their low reliability (especially in the case of old surveys) are then treated, since they represent a crucial point in the paper object of this discussion. Eventually, we present some final consideration on cave levels and terraces, and on the specific case study, pointing out once again to the need in including geological field data to correctly find a correspondance between flat landforms and sea level fluctuations. Our main conclusion is that field data and information on speleogenesis of the underground karst landforms cannot be disregarded in a study that claims to deal with the influence of sea-level changes on caves.


BAHAMIAN CAVES AND BLUE HOLES: EXQUISITELY PRESERVED FOSSIL ASSEMBLAGES AND TAPHONOMIC INFLUENCES, 2014,
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Albury N. A. , Mylroie J. E.

In The Bahamas, caves and blue holes provide clues to the geologic and climatic history of archipelago but are now emerging as windows into the ecological and cultural past of islands. Cave environments in The Bahamas alternate cyclically between vadose and phreatic conditions with sea-level change, thereby providing unique but ephemeral fossil capture and preservation conditions.

A diverse assemblage of fossil plants and animals from Sawmill Sink, an inland blue hole on Abaco Island in the northern Bahamas, has revealed a prehistoric terrestrial ecosystem with exquisitely preserved fossil assemblages that result from an unusual depositional setting. The entrance is situated in the pine forest and opens into a flooded collapse chamber that intersects horizontal conduits at depths to 54 meters. The deepest passages are filled with sea water up to an anoxic mixing zone at depths of 14 to 9 meters and into the upper surface fresh-water layer. The collapse chamber is partially filled with a large talus pile that coincides with an anoxic halocline and direct sunlight for much of the day.

During glacioeustatic sea-level lowstands in the late Pleistocene, Sawmill Sink was a dry cave, providing roosting sites for bats and owls. Accumulations of bones deposited in depths of 25 to 30 meters were subsequently preserved by sea-level rise in the Holocene. The owl roost deposits are dominated by birds but also include numerous small vertebrate species that were actively transported by owls to the roost sites.

As sea levels rose in the Holocene, Sawmill Sink became a traditional passive pitfall trap. Significant quantities of surface derived organic material collected on the upper regions of the talus at the halocline where decaying plant material produced a dense layer of peat within an anoxic mixing zone enriched with hydrogen sulfide. Vertebrate species that drowned were entombed in the peat, where conditions inhibited large scavengers, microbial decomposition, and mechanical disarticulation, contributing to the superb preserva­tion of the fossil assemblage in the upper regions of the talus.


Geologic constraints and speleogenesis of Cova des Pas de Vallgornera, a complex coastal cave from Mallorca Island (Western Mediterranean), 2014,
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Ginés J. , Fornós J. J. , Ginés A. , Merino A. , Gràcia F.

The flat areas of eastern and southern Mallorca host a remarkable coastal karst, where Cova des Pas de Vallgornera stands out due to its length (more than 74 km) and its special morphological suite. The pattern of the cave is quite heterogeneous showing sharp differences produced by the architecture of the Upper Miocene reef: spongework mazes and collapse chambers dominate in the reef front facies, whereas joint-guided conduits are the rule in the back reef carbonates. Regarding the speleogenesis of the system, a complex situation is envisaged involving three main agents: coastal mixing dissolution, drainage of meteoric diffuse recharge, and hypogene basal recharge related to local geothermal phenomena. The cave system is disposed in two main tiers of passages, of which geomorphologic interpretations are derived from their elevation data. The evolutionary trends as well as the chronology of the different cave sections are difficult to establish owing to the frequent shifting of the coastal base level during the Plio-Quaternary. In this respect, the genesis and evolution of the cave were fully controlled by sea-level fluctuations in the Western Mediterranean basin, with the main phases of cave formation, based on vertebrate paleontological data, going back to mid-Pliocene times.


Uplifted flank margin caves in telogenetic limestones in the Gulf of Orosei (Central-East Sardinia—Italy) and their palaeogeographic significance, 2015,
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D'angeli Ilenia Maria, Sanna Laura, Clazoni Claudio, De Waele Jo

Thiswork reports the results of geomorphological observations carried out in the coastal Fico Cave and surrounding areas (Baunei, Central East Sardinia) in the Gulf of Orosei. A tidal notch, generally believed to be of Eemian (MIS 5e) age, is barely visible at 8.5 above present sea level (asl), some metres below the main entrance of the cave. Old cave passages, now partially opened by cliff retreat and parallel to the coastline, are clearly visible at around 14 m asl and correspond to the main level of Fico Cave. Two more notches are located higher, at 22 and 50 m asl. Fico Cave itself is composed of at least 6 clearly distinguished more or less horizontal levels (−10 m below present sea level (bsl), and +14, +22, +40, +50, and +63 m asl), independent of the stratal dip, arguing for a sea-level, and hence, fresh-water lens control. Cave passages develop along main fractures more or less parallel to the coastline and never extend landward for more than 150 m, mostly ending blindly, or diminishing in their dimensions progressively landward. Most passages only contain clay deposits, lacking fluvial or marine sediments or typical fluvial erosion morphologies (i.e. scallops).

It is suggested from this body of evidence that Fico Cave was formed in the coastal mixing zone along major discontinuities during several Quaternary interglacial periods, when sea level was high and relatively stable for enough time to develop large dissolutional voids. The geomorphological observations indicate the main +14 m asl level of the cave to have formed during MIS 9, and was heavily reworked during MIS 5, while the higher levels are relative to older interglacial highstands that occurred between 1 Ma and 325 ka. The small active branch developed below present sea level has formed during MIS 7 (225 ka). These observations shed new light on the position of the MIS 5e highstand markers in this area of the coast, much higher than previously thought.


Deep speleological salt contamination in Mediterranean karst aquifers: perspectives for water supply, 2015,
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On the Mediterranean coast, submarine karst springs are common. Most of them are brackish and various unsuccessful attempts in France, Greece, and Italy indicate that it is impossible to diminish the salinity at the spring. Based on studies on the shores of south-eastern France and in Kefalonia (Greece), we propose a working model that explains the mechanism of salt contamination. During the Messinian Deep Stage (-5.9 to 5.3 Ma), a substantial sea-level lowering in the Mediterranean allowed the existence of cave networks extending several hundreds of meters below the present sea level. Seawater is now sucked into the system through these caves. This mechanism is supported by a study of the Port Miou underground river (Cassis, France). In the Port Miou cave system, which extends to 250 m below sea level, titanium and heavy metals are present in the sediment. They are similar to those found in the Cassidaigne submarine canyon, which reinforces the hypothesis of a connection between the cave and the canyon. Recent geological studies prove a Messinian origin for the canyon and support the deep contamination model. The model is also supported by examples on Kefalonia Island (Greece) and in the Toix–Moraig system (Spain) where salt-water intrusions are observed in coastal sinkholes and sea caves. This model explains why various attempts to diminish the salinity of these brackish springs, through the construction of dams to increase head, have failed.On the Mediterranean coast, submarine karst
springs are common. Most of them are brackish and various
unsuccessful attempts in France, Greece, and Italy
indicate that it is impossible to diminish the salinity at the
spring. Based on studies on the shores of south-eastern
France and in Kefalonia (Greece), we propose a working
model that explains the mechanism of salt contamination.
During the Messinian Deep Stage (-5.9 to 5.3 Ma), a
substantial sea-level lowering in the Mediterranean
allowed the existence of cave networks extending several
hundreds of meters below the present sea level. Seawater is
now sucked into the system through these caves. This
mechanism is supported by a study of the Port Miou
underground river (Cassis, France). In the Port Miou cave
system, which extends to 250 m below sea level, titanium
and heavy metals are present in the sediment. They are
similar to those found in the Cassidaigne submarine canyon,
which reinforces the hypothesis of a connection
between the cave and the canyon. Recent geological
studies prove a Messinian origin for the canyon and support
the deep contamination model. The model is also
supported by examples on Kefalonia Island (Greece) and in
the Toix–Moraig system (Spain) where salt-water intrusions
are observed in coastal sinkholes and sea caves. This
model explains why various attempts to diminish the
salinity of these brackish springs, through the construction
of dams to increase head, have failed.


Karst pocket valleys and their implications on Pliocene–Quaternary hydrology and climate: Examples from the Nullarbor Plain, southern Australia, 2015,
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Karst on the Nullarbor Plain has been studied and described in detail in the past, but it lacked the determination of the karst discharge and palaeo-watertable levels that would explain the palaeohydrological regime in this area. This study explores the existence of previously unrecognised features in this area – karst pocket valleys – and gives a review on pocket valleys worldwide. Initial GIS analyses were followed up by detailed field work, sampling, mapping and measuring of morphological, geological, and hydrological characteristics of representative
valleys on the Wylie and Hampton scarps of the Nullarbor Plain. Rock and sand samples were examined for mineralogy, texture and grain size, and a U–Pb dating of a speleothem froma cave within a pocket valley enabled the establishment of a time frame of the pocket valleys formation and its palaeoenvironmental implications. The pocket valleys document the hydrological evolution of the Nullarbor karst system and the Neogene–Pleistocene palaeoclimatic evolution of the southern hemisphere. A review of pocket valleys in different climatic and geological settings suggests that their basic characteristics remain the same, and their often overlooked utility as environmental indicators can be used for further palaeoenvironmental studies. The main period of intensive karstification and widening of hydrologically active underground conduits is placed into the wetter climates of the Pliocene epoch. Subsequent drier climates and lowering of the watertable that followed sea-level retreat in the Quaternary resulted in formation of the pocket valleys (gravitational undermining, slumping, exudation and collapse), which, combined with periodic heavy rainfall events and discharge due to impeded drainage, caused the retreat of the pocket valleys from the edge of escarpments.


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