Geological influences on cave origin and development in the Yorkshire Dales UK


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April 2014


The Inception Horizon Hypothesis of cave origin encompasses geology-centred views of when, why and how primitive permeability was imprinted within mainly karstic limestone sequences. Potentially, the earliest processes affect unconsolidated or partially consolidated sediment during early diagenesis and are inevitably related to lithological contrasts. Such contrasts eventually become recognizable as specific horizons, to the extent that these 'inception horizons' become an intrinsic part of the preserved rock succession during syngenetic and mesogenetic diagenesis. The horizons provide the key to the establishment of the earliest extended, low efficiency hydraulic gradients within rocks that were initially virtually impermeable. With the onset of telogenetic conditions following uplift and tectonism the early role of 'inception horizons' continues under less confined or unconfined conditions, but with added scope for the involvement of tectonic fractures (broadly faults and joints). These can provide 'inception links', enabling establishment of geometrically more complex but also more efficient hydraulic gradients. Whereas a newly uplifted karstic succession can include the imprints of several vertically-stacked 'inception horizons' linked to depositional cyclicity (sensu lato), how these imprints help to guide aspects of later cave development depends upon the three-dimensional relationships of'inception horizons' and 'inception links' (folds and fractures) and upon how the developing landscape interacts with them. The still partly theoretical concept is illustrated with examples from the Yorkshire Dales.


Yorkshire Dales, Karstic, Limestone

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Cave and Karst Science, Vol. 41, no. 1 (2014-04-01).