Conceptual and respective quantitative models of speleogenesis/karstification developed for unconfined aquifers do not adequately represent speleogenesis in confined settings. A conceptual model for speleogenesis in confined settings is suggested, based on views about hydraulic continuity in artesian basins and close cross-formation communication between aquifers in multi-storey artesian systems. Soluble units sandwiched between insoluble porous/fissured formations (common aquifers) initially serve as low permeability beds separating aquifers in a confined system. Conduits evolve as result of vertical hydraulic communication between aquifers across the soluble bed ("transverse speleogenesis"). Recharge from the adjacent aquifer is dispersed and uniform, and flow paths across the soluble bed are rather short. There is a specific hydrogeologic mechanism inherent in artesian transverse speleogenesis (restricted input/output) that suppresses the positive flow-dissolution feedback and hence speleogenetic competition in fissure networks, and accounts for the development of more pervasive channelling in confined settings, of maze patterns where appropriate structural prerequisites exist. This is the fundamental cause for the distinctions between cave morphologies evolving in unconfined and confined aquifers and for eventual distinctions of karstic permeability, storage characteristics and flow system behaviour between the two types of aquifers. Passage network density (the ratio of the cave length to the area of the cave field, km/km2) and cave porosity (a fraction of the volume of a cave block, occupied by mapped cavities) are roughly one order of magnitude greater in confined settings than in unconfined. Average areal coverage (a fraction of the area of the cave field occupied by passages in a plan view) is about 5 times greater in confined settings. Conduit permeability in unconfined settings tends to be highly heterogeneous, whereas it is more homogeneous in confined settings. The storage characteristics of confined karstified aquifers are much greater. Recognition of the differences between origin, organisation and behaviour of karst systems evolved in unconfined and confined settings can improve efficiency of exploration and management of various resources in karst regions and adequacy of assessment of karst-related hazards.
Conceptualisation of speleogenesis in multi-storey artesian systems: a model of transverse speleogenesis.
International Journal of Speleology,
Available at: http://scholarcommons.usf.edu/ijs/vol34/iss1/4