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Featured article from karst/cave journal

NSS
Journal of Cave and Karst Studies, 2009, Vol 71, Issue 3, p. 180-192
Cave exploration as a guide to geologic research in the Appalachians
Abstract:

Cave exploration and mapping can provide considerable insight into the nature of groundwater flow and geologic processes in soluble rocks. The Appalachian Mountains provide an ideal setting for this exchange of information because their geology varies greatly over short distances. Caves reveal the way in which groundwater flow is guided by geologic structure, and they help to clarify aquifer test data, well yield, and contaminant dispersion. Well tests in karst aquifers often reveal confined or unconfined conditions that make little sense stratigraphically, but which can be explained with the aid of cave mapping. With regard to geologic mapping, many caves reveal structures that are not visible at the surface. Caves also show evidence for underground geochemical processes that cannot be detected from well data. Subtle mineralogical clues are generally erased by weathering and erosion at the surface, but persist in many caves. The information that caves have provided about subsurface geology and water flow is now being used by explorers, even those with no geologic background, to help them find new caves.