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Karst evolution of the Nullarbor Plain, Australia

John A. Webb and Julia M. James
Karst evolution of the Nullarbor Plain, Australia (in Perspectives on karst geomorphology, hydrology, and geochemistry; a tribute volume to Derek C. Ford and William B. White, Russell S. Harmon (editor) and Carol M. Wicks (editor))
Special Paper - Geological Society of America (2006) 404: 65-78


The Nullarbor Plain of southeastern Australia, approximately 200,000 km (super 2) 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 approximately 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.

ISSN: 0072-1077
EISSN: 2331-219X
Serial Title: Special Paper - Geological Society of America
Serial Volume: 404
Title: Karst evolution of the Nullarbor Plain, Australia
Title: Perspectives on karst geomorphology, hydrology, and geochemistry; a tribute volume to Derek C. Ford and William B. White
Author(s): Webb, John A.James, Julia M.
Author(s): Harmon, Russell S.editor
Author(s): Wicks, Carol M.editor
Affiliation: La Trobe University, Department of Earth Sciences, Melbourne, Victoria, Australia
Affiliation: U. S. Army Research Office, Environmental Sciences Division, Research Triangle Park, NC, United States
Pages: 65-78
Published: 2006
Text Language: English
Publisher: Geological Society of America (GSA), Boulder, CO, United States
ISBN: 978-0-8137-2404-1
ISBN: 0-8137-2404-7
References: 40
Accession Number: 2006-075407
Categories: Geomorphology
Document Type: Serial
Bibliographic Level: Analytic
Illustration Description: illus. incl. block diag., chart, sects., sketch maps
S35°00'00" - S31°40'00", E123°30'00" - E135°49'60"
S35°00'00" - S29°00'00", E123°00'00" - E136°00'00"
Secondary Affiliation: University of Missouri-Columbia, USA, United StatesUniversity of Sydney, AUS, Australia
Country of Publication: United States
Secondary Affiliation: GeoRef, Copyright 2017, American Geosciences Institute.
Update Code: 200643
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