Speleogenesis in confined settings generates cave morphologies that differ much from those formed in unconfined settings. Caves developed in unconfined settings are characterised by broadly dendritic patterns of channels due to highly competing development. In contrast, caves originated under confined conditions tend to form two- or three-dimensional mazes with densely packed conduits. This paper illustrates variations of solution (channel) porosity resulted from speleogenesis in unconfined and confined settings by the analysis of morphometric parameters of typical cave patterns. Two samples of typical cave systems formed in the respective settings are compared. The sample that represents unconfined speleogenesis consists of solely limestone caves, whereas gypsum caves of this type tend to be less dendritic and more linear. The sample that represents confined speleogenesis consists of both limestone and gypsum maze caves. The comparison shows considerable differences in average values of some parameters between the settings. Passage network density (the ratio of the cave length to the area of the cave field, km/km2) is one order of magnitude greater in confined settings than in unconfined (average 167.3 km/km2 versus 16.6 km/km2). Similarly, an order of magnitude difference is observed in cave porosity (a fraction of the volume of a cave block, occupied by mapped cavities; 5.0 % versus 0.4 %). This illustrates that storage in maturely karstified confined aquifers is generally much greater than in unconfined. The 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 than in unconfined (29.7 % versus 6.4 %). This indicates that conduit permeability in confined aquifers is appreciably easier to target with drilling than the widely spaced conduits in unconfined aquifers.
Unconfined versus confined speleogenetic settings: variations of solution porosity.
International Journal of Speleology,
Available at: http://scholarcommons.usf.edu/ijs/vol35/iss1/3