The contribution of condensation-corrosion in the morphological evolution of caves in semi-arid regions : preliminary investigations in the Kyrenia range, Cyprus.

Abstract : The condensation-corrosion process occurs when airflow cools at the contact with colder cave walls. Condensed water becomes aggressive for soluble rocks and corrodes the walls. This process is particularly active close to cave entrances in high thermal gradient zones where external air enters caves. Condensation appears to be important where bat colonies are also present. Bat metabolism and guano decomposition release heat, vapour, and acids. Hence, bat colonies contribute to the increase of condensation- corrosion, especially by providing permanent moisture and chemical aggressiveness. Corrosive air convections produce rounded morphologies, such as ceiling channels, cupolas, and corroded older flowstones. This process has been overlooked in previous research, since related morphologies were often confused with those produced by early phreatic flow. Kyrenia Range in Cyprus has a semi-arid climate. All the studied caves developed along open-fractures. They are located both in recrystallized carbonates (limestone and dolostone, such as Smoky and Pigeons Caves), or in gypsum (First Day and Angry Bat Caves). We also studied a maze cave that acted as a spring in gypsum that initially developed under phreatic conditions, followed by an epiphreatic phase that allowed the development of notches (Fig Tree Cave, also named İncirli Show Cave). Due to the semi-arid climate, external air is very dry in summer, thus condensation seems to occur mainly in winter, when cave atmosphere instability allows large air exchanges between caves and surface atmosphere. In summer, evaporation prevails, allowing the development of popcorn lines in carbonate caves and massive gypsum crusts, stalagmites, and sidewalk rims in gypsum caves. However, the presence of a bat colony in a semi-confined chamber in Smoky Cave is probably the origin of the permanent moisture, also during the dry season, leading to a strong development of condensation-corrosion features such as ceiling cupolas, and possibly to the permanent activity of flowstones. In addition, we detected high concentrations of sulphur dioxide (SO2) and radon (Rn) in Fig Tree Cave, possibly related to the activity of the neighbouring overthrust. Based on the five studied caves in the Kyrenia Range and surroundings, the open-fracture caves in carbonates and gypsum have not undergone the typical initial phreatic stage, but have formed in a short time during Pleistocene as a result of the fast uplift of the range and were later reshaped by condensation-corrosion morphologies. Some gypsum caves may have formed entirely by this latter process, after initial minor fracture development. Cyprus is an outstanding area for studying the condensation-corrosion in caves, since a phreatic origin can be ruled out for most of the rounded morphologies.
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Didier Cailhol, Philippe Audra, Carole Nehme, Fadi Nader, Mladen Garašić, et al.. The contribution of condensation-corrosion in the morphological evolution of caves in semi-arid regions : preliminary investigations in the Kyrenia range, Cyprus.. Acta Carsologica, Scientific Research Centre Publishing, 2019, 48 (1), ⟨10.3986/ac.v48i1.6782⟩. ⟨hal-02150296⟩

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