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The Nullarbor Plain of southeastern Australia, ∼200,000 km2 in area, is flat and mostly treeless. It contains widely scattered collapse dolines and a few hundred caves, some of which are large and extensive. Initial karst development probably occurred during the warm, seasonally wet climatic conditions of the Oligocene, when the withdrawal of the sea exposed the recently deposited Eocene Wilson Bluff Limestone for over ∼10 m.y. Several major conduits probably developed at this time. These were flooded by the return of the sea, which finally retreated in the late Miocene followed by regional uplift. Cave formation in the Pliocene and Quaternary was inhibited by the semiarid climate, which became increasingly arid ca. 1 Ma. The overall dryness caused crystallization of evaporite minerals in cracks and pore spaces within the limestone walls of the caves, and they suffered extensive collapse, producing large passages, dome chambers, and dolines. However, during a wet phase 5–3 Ma, rivers extended across the karst plain, and caves formed where they sank into the limestone. Shallower caves probably also formed at this time, perhaps associated with perched water tables. The Nullarbor Plain did not develop extensive surface and underground karst features, even during the wetter climate of the Oligocene. It appears that the flatness of the plain and the particular characteristics of the limestone (primary porosity and lack of jointing and inception horizons) resulted in relatively uniform downwasting and little cave formation. Climate played a relatively minor role in restricting karst development.

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