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Featured article from geoscience journal

Elsevier
Journal of Hydrology, , Vol 393, Issue 3, p. 143-155
Conduit enlargement in an eogenetic karst aquifer
Abstract:

Most concepts of conduit development have focused on telogenetic karst aquifers, where low matrix permeability focuses flow and dissolution along joints, fractures, and bedding planes. However, conduits also exist in eogenetic karst aquifers, despite high matrix permeability which accounts for a significant component of flow. This study investigates dissolution within a 6-km long conduit system in the eogenetic Upper Floridan aquifer of north-central Florida that begins with a continuous source of allogenic recharge at the Santa Fe River Sink and discharges from a first-magnitude spring at the Santa Fe River Rise. Three sources of water to the conduit include the allogenic recharge, diffuse recharge through epikarst, and mineralized water upwelling from depth. Results of sampling and inverse modeling using PHREEQC suggest that dissolution within the conduit is episodic, occurring only during 30% of 16 sampling times between March 2003 and April 2007. During low flow conditions, carbonate saturated water flows from the matrix to the conduit, restricting contact between undersaturated allogenic water with the conduit wall. When gradients reverse during high flow conditions, undersaturated allogenic recharge enters the matrix. During these limited periods, estimates of dissolution within the conduit suggest wall retreat averages about 4 × 10−6 m/day, in agreement with upper estimates of maximum wall retreat for telogenetic karst. Because dissolution is episodic, time-averaged dissolution rates in the sink-rise system results in a wall retreat rate of about 7 × 10−7 m/day, which is at the lower end of wall retreat for telogenetic karst. Because of the high permeability matrix, conduits in eogenetic karst thus enlarge not just at the walls of fractures or pre-existing conduits such as those in telogenetic karst, but also may produce a friable halo surrounding the conduits that may be removed by additional mechanical processes. These observations stress the importance of matrix permeability in eogenetic karst and suggest new concepts may be necessary to describe how conduits develop within these porous rocks.