This study is focused on speleogenesis of the Toca da Boa Vista (TBV) and Toca da Barriguda (TBR), the longest caves in South America occurring in the Neoproterozoic Salitre Formation in the São Francisco Craton, NE Brazil. We employ a multidisciplinary approach integrating detailed speleomorphogenetic, lithostratigraphic and geological structure studies in order to reveal the origin of the caves, their functional organization and geologic controls on their development. The caves developed in deep-seated confined conditions by rising flow. The overall fields of passages of TBV and TBR caves represent a speleogenetically exploited large NE-SW-trending fracture corridor associated with a major thrust. This corridor vertically extends across the Salitre Formation allowing the rise of deep fluids. In the overall ascending flow system, the formation of the cave pattern was controlled by a system of sub-parallel anticlines and troughs with NNE-SSW dominant orientation, and by vertical and lateral heterogeneities in fracture distribution. Three cave-stratigraphic stories reflect the actual hydrostratigraphy during the main phase of speleogenesis. Cavities at different stories are distinct in morphology and functioning. The gross tree-dimensional pattern of the system is effectively organized to conduct rising flow in deep-seated confined conditions. Cavities in the lower story developed as recharge components to the system. A laterally extensive conduit network in the middle story formed because the vertical flow from numerous recharge points has been redirected laterally along the highly conductive unit, occurring below the major seal - a scarcely fractured unit. Rift-like and shaft-like conduits in the upper story developed along fracture-controlled outflow paths, breaching the integrity of the major seal, and served as outlets for the cave system. The cave system represents a series of vertically organized, functionally largely independent clusters of cavities developed within individual ascending flow cells. Lateral integration of clusters occurred due to hydrodynamic interaction between the flow cells in course of speleogenetic evolution and change of boundary conditions. The main speleogenetic phase, during which the gross cave pattern has been established and the caves acquired most of their volume, was likely related to rise of deep fluids at about 520. Ma or associated with rifting and the Pangea break-up in Triassic-Cretaceous. This study highlights the importance of speleogenetic studies for interpreting porosity and permeability features in carbonate reservoirs.
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