Par : Jo De Waele, professeur à l’Italian Institute of Speleology (Université de Bologne)
Caves are extremely valuable underground treasures. Important signs of the past are preserved in cave chemical and physical sediments, and the shapes and morphologies of these natural subterranean voids tell us something on the processes involved in their formation. Different dating techniques (C14, U/Th, cosmogenic burial dating) can be used to obtain chronological constraints on the formation of the voids and the hosted speleothems. Geochemistry, geomorphology, paleontology and mineralogy can give useful data to reconstruct past environments. Examples will be given from caves in different rocks (limestones, dolostone, gypsum, salt, quartz-sandstone) and geological-geographical settings (Emilia-Romagna, Dolomiti Bellunesi, Sardinia, Venezuela, Chile, Cuba). Underestimating the importance of caves in geological studies can deprive geologists of a lot of fundamental data. And speleologists can still give a lot of useful information to geologists.