Vadose weathering is a significant mechanism for initiating breakdown in caves. Vadose weathering of ore bodies, mineral veins, palaeokarst deposits, non-carbonate keystones and impure, altered or fractured bedrock, which is intersected by caves, will frequently result in breakdown. Breakdown is an active, ongoing process. Breakdown occurs throughout the vadose zone, and is not restricted to large diameter passages, or to cave ceilings. The surfaces of disarticulated blocks are commonly coated, rather than having fresh broken faces, and blocks continue to disintegrate after separating from the bedrock. Not only gypsum, but also hydromagnesite and aragonite are responsible for crystal wedging. It is impossible to study or identify potential breakdown foci by surface surveys alone, in-cave observation and mapping are essential.



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