Tectonic control of cave development: a case study of the Bystra Valley in the Tatra Mts., Poland

Jacek Szczygieł, Krzysztof Gaidzik, Ditta Kicińska

Abstract


Tectonic research and morphological observations were carried out in six caves (Kalacka, Goryczkowa, Kasprowa Niżna, Kasprowa Średnia, Kasprowa Wyżnia and Magurska) in the Bystra Valley, in the Tatra Mountains. There are three cave levels, with the youngest active and the other two inactive, reflecting development partly under epiphreatic and partly under phreatic conditions. These studies demonstrate strong control of the cave pattern by tectonic features, including faults and related fractures that originated or were rejuvenated during uplift, lasting from the Late Miocene. In a few local cases, the cave passages are guided by the combined influence of bedding, joints and fractures in the hinge zone of a chevron anticline. That these cave passages are guided by tectonic structures, irrespective of lithological differences, indicates that these proto-conduits were formed by “tectonic inception”. Differences in the cave pattern between the phreatic and epiphreatic zones at a given cave level may be a result of massif relaxation. Below the bottom of the valley, the effect of stress on the rock mass is related to the regional stress field and only individual faults extend below the bottom of the valley. Thus in the phreatic zone, the flow is focused and a single conduit becomes enlarged. The local extension is more intense in the epiphreatic zone above the valley floor and more fractures have been sufficiently extended to allow water to flow. The water migrates along a network of fissures and a maze could be forming. Neotectonic displacements (of up to 15 cm), which are more recent than the passages, were also identified in the caves. Neotectonic activity is no longer believed to have as great an impact on cave morphology as previously was thought. Those faults with displacements of several metres, described as younger than the cave by other authors, should be reclassified as older faults, the surfaces of which have been exposed by speleogenesis. The possible presence of neotectonic faults with greater displacements is not excluded, but they would have had a much greater morphological impact than the observed features suggest.

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DOI: https://doi.org/10.14241/asgp.2015.015