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Morphogenesis of the Postojna Basin karst periphery : dissertation
Astrid Švara, 2023, doctoral dissertation

Abstract: This thesis represents a karstological study on the drainage of the Postojna Basin. It focuses on a multidisciplinary approach, based on fieldwork, computer analyses and dating. The northern study area has the highest: doline density of 108 dolines/km2, number of contact karst features (i.e. 9), and number of collapse dolines (i.e. 19). It has three catchments. The Lokva cuts into the flysch ridges and sinks in the Predjama Cave System at the lowest point of the basin (i.e. 474 m a.s.l.). Between 37 selected caves, 14 were longer than 150 m. The Predjama Cave System was developed in 3 levels and the Postojna Cave System was developed in 2 levels. The vertical passages connecting them are deepest in the Predjama cave, where the vadose zone is up to 250 m deep. By the favourable ponor steepheads and 140 m deep vadose passages, the Hrušica Plateau shows a major uplift phase. The Postojna Cave System, Risovec blind valley and 17 collapse dolines indicate significant past hydrological changes. First, Nanoščica formed the Risovec blind valley, followed by Otoška jama, Tartarus, Male jame, and Artificial tunnel toward E/NE, forming the Vodni dol. At the same time, the ponor of Pivka shifted in the Postojnska jama (at present “Stara jama”), flowing towards N, forming Jeršanove doline. The successive subsidence of the erosional base and the Postojna karst uplift redirected the Nanoščica in Pivka. Now they sink into active parts of the Postojna cave at 511 m a.s.l. The eastern study area has the Unroofed cave Kriva dolina as a former ponor of Pivka. At present the area has springs and favourable (sub)vertical passages. The southern study area has the highest variety of contact karst features (i.e. 5). The Prestranški ravnik represents an aquifer with ponors and springs. It is separated from the Slavinski ravnik, by a flysch belt. In the southern study area, 10 caves were longer than 150 m among 49 selected caves. The Loza Cave System, a case study in Slavinski ravnik, is developed in 3 epiphreatic levels that followed two phases of tectonic uplift with a successive formation of diversion routes through 30-40 m deep vadose passages. The oldest upper cave level has sediments from at least the Gilbert Chron with CW rotations. U-Th dates from speleothems prove vadose speleogenesis before the cave ceiling denudation and collapse from 210 ka to 550 ka (≤1.2 Ma). The middle cave level has epiphreatic sediments at least in the Gauss Chron (i.e. 2.59-3.59 Ma) and reveals 35-38° CCW rotations. The allogenic sediments in the lower cave level show Brunhes and Matuyama Chrons (i.e. <0.78-2.58 Ma). We generally discussed ponor steepheads that develop on steepest slopes on the thrust/fault contact, while blind valleys and border depressions develop on normal stratigraphic contact with mildest slopes. The speleogenesis was mainly driven by relatively quick tectonic uplift, followed by vadose speleogenesis, with intermediate speleogenesis in the epiphreatic zone. Speleogenesis and contact karst features follow the subsidence of the water table, evidenced by cave levels, and active and relict features. Allogenic sediments are followed by speleothems as shift of caves between hydrological zones. The sequence of events repeated 2-3 times. The main local source of allogenic sediments is in the Postojna Basin, represented by the erosion of flysch rocks and alluvium. The mineralogical composition between catchments is similar with no significant change. The regional compressional-tectonic regime has significantly influenced the changes in the drainage of the Postojna Basin during the last 7 Ma, with different uplifts and drop of the karst water table. The major uplift was reflected by the change in the Nanoščica course from the Slavinski ravnik to the Postojna karst from S to N, presumably between 3.59 Ma and >1.77 Ma and represented the last important general shift in the drainage of the Postojna Basin.
Keywords: karst, contact karst, regional tectonic uplift, cave levels, shift from epiphreatic to vadose speleogenesis, Loza Cave System, Postojna drainage basin
Published in RUNG: 05.12.2023; Views: 742; Downloads: 50
.pdf Full text (29,89 MB)

CO2 dynamics and dissolutional processes in the karst vadose zone
Lovel Kukuljan, 2022, doctoral dissertation

Abstract: The dynamics and distribution of carbon dioxide (CO2) in karst systems are crucial for understanding fundamental karst processes, namely precipitation and dissolution, which drive karst development both at the surface and underground. The study of CO2 transport provides valuable insights into the role of karst systems in the global carbon cycle and the impact on present climate, but also into the growth of speleothems, which are one of the most reliable terrestrial archives for palaeoclimate reconstruction. Due to the complexity of karst systems, long-term monitoring and high-resolution analyses of cave air and water geochemistry are essential to better understand the controlling factors that affect these processes and their outcomes. In the framework of this dissertation, cave climate and water hydrochemistry monitoring was established in a side-passages of the renowned Postojna Cave in Slovenia during 2017–2021. In the Pisani Passage, high CO2 concentrations, large temporal variations and a heterogeneous distribution of CO2, as well as extreme dissolution features, have already been detected in previous studies. The aim of the present study was to investigate these observations in depth and to find the reasons for their occurrence. This led to creating of a conceptual model for CO2 transport in karst systems that would be valid not only in this case but in karst areas worldwide. The first focus of the study is dedicated to understanding the spatio-temporal dynamics of the partial pressure of CO2 (pCO2) in the Pisani Passage, which is mainly transported by advection (i.e., cave ventilation). Continuous measurements of airflow velocity, air temperature and pCO2 showed (1) that airflow through the karst massif is driven by both the action of the chimney effect and external winds, and (2) that the relationship between the direction of airflow, the configuration of airflow pathways and the connection to the outside explains the observed variations in pCO2. Due to the particular configuration of the airflow pathways, the terminal chamber of Pisani Passage accumulates high levels of CO2 (>10,000 ppm) and forms high vertical gradients of up to 1000 ppm/m. The pCO2 is low and uniform during updraft when outside air flows into the cave chamber through open, unobstructed passages (i.e., high-flow, low-pCO2 pathways). When the airflow reverses direction to downdraft, the chamber is fed by low-flow, high-pCO2 pathways that enter the cave passage through a CO2-rich fracture network embedded in a vadose zone. The spatial distribution of inlets and outlets results in minimal mixing between the low and high pCO2 pathways, leading to high and persistent pCO2 gradients. In addition to the chimney effect driving the seasonal ventilation of the cave, the specific signs of a secondary wind-driven effect were also found; which is the second focus of this study. Wind flow over irregular topography leads to near-surface air pressure variations, and thus, pressure differences between cave entrances at different locations. Pressure differences depend on wind speed and direction and their relationship to surface topography and the location of cave entrances. Winds can act in the same or opposite direction as the chimney effect, either enhancing, diminishing or even reversing the direction of density-driven airflows. In the case of Postojna Cave, north and northeast winds enhance the downdraft and limit updraft, while the opposite is true for south winds, which enhance the updraft and limit downdraft. To investigate the importance of wind-driven flow, a computational fluid dynamics model was used to calculate the wind pressure field over Postojna Cave and the pressure differences between selected points for different configurations of wind speed and direction. These values were compared with those obtained from airflow measurements in the cave and from simple theoretical considerations. Despite the simplicity of the approach and the complexity of the ca
Keywords: cave climate, cave ventilation, carbon dioxide, dripwater geochemistry, speleothem corrosion, Postojna Cave, Slovenia
Published in RUNG: 22.06.2022; Views: 1836; Downloads: 68
.pdf Full text (8,45 MB)

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