Bulletin of the National Speleological Society - ISSN 0146-9517
Volume 22 Part 1: 23-29 - January 1960

A publication of the National Speleological Society

Changing Concepts of Speleogenesis
William R. Halliday


Theories on the nature of the origin and development of limestone caverns underwent systematization in the United States in 1930 as a result of the publicaiton of an important deductive study by William Morris Davis. For some years thereafter, controversy existed as to whether caves are a result of a "one-cycle" process occurring wholly in the vadose zone or a "two-cycle" process having its first phase in the phreatic zone. Field work by many investigators in recent years has indicated some features of caverns which clearly were formed in the phreatic zone and others which were formed in the vadose zone, but this has by no means resolved the controversy.

Comparison of the features of individual limestone caves with those of nearby caves that are at a different stage in a genetic sequence and comparison with caves in different regions suggest that the terms "one-cycle" and "two-cycle" should be abandoned. Emphasis instead should be placed on the specific nature of features of individual caves derived from processes occurring in each of the phreatic and vadose zones. Only in the broadest terms can it be said that all limestone caves develop in the same way, and terminology which suggests that this is true should be replaced by descriptions of individual speleogenetic sequences.

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