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Republished from Theoretical and Applied Karstology, 2001, 13-14, 9-24. Open link

UIS KHS Commission
Conduit fragmentation, cave patterns, and the localization of karst ground water basins: the Appalachians as a test case
Abstract:

Because conduit systems in maturely developed karst aquifers have a low hydraulic resistance, aquifers drain easily and karst aquifers are subdivided into well-defined ground water basins. Ground water elevations are highest at basin boundaries; lowest at the spring where the ground water is discharged. Parameters that control the type of conduit development are (1) the effective hydraulic gradient, (2) the focus of the drainage basin, and (3) the karstifiability of the bedrock. Moderate to highly effective hydraulic gradients permit the runaway process that leads to single conduit caves and well ordered branchwork systems. Low hydraulic gradients allow many alternate flow paths and thus a large degree of fuzziness in the basin boundaries. Low gradient ground water basins also tend to merge due to rising water tables during periods of high discharge. Focus is provided by geological constraints that optimize discharge at specific locations that can evolve into karst springs. Karstifiability is a measure of the bulk rate at which aquifer rocks will dissolve. Fine grained, pure limestones and shaley dolomites mark the opposite ends of the range. The cave surveys of the Appalachian Highlands provide a data base that can be used to classify the lateral arrangements of conduit systems and thus determine the relative importance of the factors defined above.