Syngenetic Karst in Australia: a review


Ken G. Grimes


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Publication Date

January 2006


In syngenetic karst speleogenesis and lithogenesis are concurrent: caves and karst features are forming at the same time as the loose sediment is being cemented into a soft, porous rock. “Eogenetic karst” and “soft-rock karst” are closely related terms for features developed in soft, poorly-consolidated limestones. The distinctive features of syngenetic karst are: shallow horizontal cave systems; a general lack of directed conduits (low irregular chambers occur instead); cluster- ing of caves at the margins of topographic highs or along the coast; paleosoil horizons; vertical solution pipes which locally form dense fields; extensive breakdown and subsidence to form collapse-dominated cave systems; a variety of surface and subsurface breccias and locally large collapse dolines and cenotes; and limited surface sculpturing (karren). These features are best developed in host sediments that have well developed primary matrix permeability and limited secondary cementation (and hence limited mechanical strength), for example dune calcarenites. Certain hydrological environments also assist: invading swamp waters or mixing at a well-developed watertable; or, near the coast, mixing at the top and bottom of a freshwater lens floating on salt water. Where these factors are absent the karst forms tend to be more akin to those of classical hard-rock or telogenetic karst.


Syngenetic Karst, Eogenetic Diagenesis, Soft-Rock Karst, Dune Calcarenite, Solution Pipes, Australia

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Helictite, Vol. 39, no. 2 (2006).