While the unique aesthetic values of the caves at Cliefden are well known, understanding the scientific value of the caves is paramount in their conservation and protection. There has been little scientific research done on the caves at Cliefden. For many years people have been able only to speculate about their formation, age and interal composition.
How did the caves at Cliefden form?
The processes that formed the caves is not well understood. The caves show little evidence of formation by free flowing water from the adjacent Belubula River. This is cause to believe the formation of the caves is associated with rising ground water, known as per- ascension cave development. These processes have had little research done on them and are key to understanding Cliefden's unique values in relation to those of other karst areas in Australia.
Who and what has lived in the caves?
By examination of the large and well preserved sediment layers within Cliefden Caves scientists can better understand the past occupation of the caves by both native animal species and Aboriginal people. Native species include the 12 species of bats that have been recorded within the caves and even the existance of extinct Australian mega-fauna. Aboriginal occupation in the vicinity of the Cliefden Caves is well known, but evidence for occupation within the caves has not been documented as yet.
How important is groundwater hydrology and the warm spring to the caves?
Cliefden Caves is home to one of three warm springs of its type in NSW. The link between it and the origin of the caves is not fully understood at the present time. Studing the source and temperature of the water that formed the caves through isotope analysis will allow a better understanding of the origin of the caves and the enviroments in which they formed.
How did the rare minerals in the Cliefden Caves form, and what can they tell us?
The caves contain a wide range of mineral deposits that are key to understanding the significance of the caves, including blue stalactites, cave sediments and altered bedrock. The mineral composition is determined with X-ray diffraction (XRD), which compares minerals by their diffraction pattern (like a fingerprint). The isotopic compositions in the cave deposits at Cliefden can also lead us to a better understanding of Australia's past climates.