Speleogenesis is the development of well-organized cave systems by fluids moving through fissures of a soluble rock. Epigenic caves induced by biogenic CO2 soil production are dominant, whereas hypogenic caves resulting from uprising deep flow not directly connected to adjacent recharge areas appear to be more frequent than previously considered. The conceptual models of epigenic cave development moved from early models, through the “four-states model” involving fracture influence to explain deep loops, to the digital models demonstrating the adjustment of the main flow to the water table. The relationships with base level are complex and cave levels must be determined from the elevation of the vadose-phreatic transitions. Since flooding in the epiphreatic zone may be important, the top of the loops in the epiphreatic zone can be found significantly high above the base level. The term Paragenesis is used to describe the upward development of conduits as their lower parts fill with sediments. This process often records a general baselevel rise. Sediment influx is responsible for the regulation of long profiles by paragenesis and contributes to the evolution of profiles from looping to water table caves. Dating methods allow identification of the timing of cave level evolution. The term Ghost-rock karstification is used to describe a 2-phase process of speleogenesis, with a first phase of partial solution of rock along fractures in low gradient conditions leaving a porous matrix, the ghost-rock, then a second phase of mechanical removing of the ghost-rock mainly by turbulent flow in high gradient conditions opening the passages and forming maze caves. The first weathering phase can be related either to epigenic infiltration or to hypogenic upflow, especially in marginal areas of sedimentary basins. The vertical pattern of epigenic caves is mainly controlled by timing, geological structure, types of flow and base-level changes. We define several cave types as (1) juvenile, where they are perched above underlying aquicludes; (2) looping, where recharge varies greatly with time, to produce epiphreatic loops; (3) water-table caves where flow is regulated by a semi-pervious cover; and (4) caves in the equilibrium stage where flow is transmitted without significant flooding. Successive base-level drops caused by valley entrenchment make cave levels, whereas baselevel rise is defined in the frame of the Per ascensum Model of Speleogenesis (PAMS), where deep passages are flooded and drain through vauclusian springs. The PAMS can be active after any type of baselevel rise (transgression, fluvial aggradation, tectonic subsidence) and explains most of the deep phreatic cave systems except for hypogenic.
The term Hypogenic speleogenesis is used to describe cave development by deep upflow independent of adjacent recharge areas. Due to its deep origin, water frequently has a high CO2-H2S concentration and a thermal anomaly, but not systematically. Numerous dissolution processes can be involved in hypogenic speleogenesis, which often include deep-seated acidic sources of CO2 and H2S, “hydrothermal” cooling, mixing corrosion, Sulfuric Acid Speleogenesis (SAS), etc. SAS particularly involves the condensation-corrosion processes, resulting in the fast expansion of caves above the water table, i.e. in an atmospheric environment. The hydrogeological setting of hypogenic speleogenesis is based on the Regional Gravity Flow concept, which shows at the basin scales the sites of convergences and upflows where dissolution focuses. Each part of a basin (marginal, internal, deep zone) has specific conditions. The coastal basin is a sub-type. In deformed strata, flow is more complex according to the geological structure. However, upflow and hypogenic speleogenesis concentrate in structural highs (buried anticlines) and zones of major disruption (faults, overthrusts). In disrupted basins, the geothermal gradient “pumps” the meteoric water at depth, making loops of different depths and characteristics. Volcanism and magmatism also produce deep hypogenic loops with “hyperkarst” characteristics due to a combination of deep-seated CO2, H2S, thermalism, and microbial activity. In phreatic conditions, the resulting cave patterns
can include geodes, 2–3D caves, and giant ascending shafts. Along the water table, SAS with thermal air convection induces powerful condensation-corrosion and the development of upwardly dendritic caves, isolated chambers, water table sulfuricacid caves. In the vadose zone, “smoking” shafts evolve under the influence of geothermal gradients producing air convectionand condensation-corrosion.
Likely future directions for research will probably involve analytical and modeling methods, especially using isotopes, dating, chemical simulations, and field investigations focused on the relationships between processes and resulting morphologies.