U.S. Geological Survey Scientific Investigations Report 2005-5160
Edited by Eve L. Kuniansky
This report is available as a pdf below
Karst aquifer systems are present throughout parts of the United States and some of its territories. The complex depositional environments that form carbonate rocks combined with post-depositional tectonic events and the diverse climatic regimes under which these rocks were formed, result in unique systems. The dissolution of calcium carbonate and the subsequent development of distinct and beautiful landscapes, caverns, and springs have resulted in some karst areas of the United States being designated as national or state parks and commercial caverns. Karst aquifers and landscapes that form in tropical areas, such as the north coast of Puerto Rico differ greatly from karst areas in more arid climates, such as central Texas or South Dakota. Many of these public and private lands contain unique flora and fauna associated with the karstic hydrologic systems. Thus, multiple Federal, state, and local agencies have an interest in the study of karst areas.
Carbonate sediments and rocks are composed of greater than 50 percent carbonate (CO3) and the predominant carbonate mineral is calcium carbonate or limestone (CaCO3). Unlike terrigenous clastic sedimentation, the depositional processes that produce carbonate rocks are complex, involving both biological and physical processes. These depositional processes impact greatly the development of permeability of the sediments. Carbonate minerals readily dissolve and precipitate depending on the chemistry of the water flowing through the rock, thus the study of both marine and meteoric diagenesis of carbonate sediments is multidisciplinary. Even with a better understanding of the depositional environment and the subsequent diagenesis, the dual porosity nature of karst aquifers presents challenges to scientists attempting to study ground-water flow and contaminant transport.
Many of the major springs and aquifers in the United States develop in carbonate rocks and karst areas. These aquifers and springs serve as major water-supply sources and as unique biological habitats. Commonly, there is competition for the water resources of karst aquifers, and urban development in karst areas can impact the ecosystem and water quality of these aquifers.
The concept for developing a Karst Interest Group evolved from the November 1999, National Ground-Water Meeting of the U.S. Geological Survey, Water Resources Division. As a result, the Karst Interest Group was formed in 2000. The Karst Interest Group is a loose-knit grass-roots organization of U.S. Geological Survey employees devoted to fostering better communication among scientists working on, or interested in, karst hydrology studies.
The mission of the Karst Interest Group is to encourage and support interdisciplinary collaboration and technology transfer among U.S. Geological Survey scientists working in karst areas. Additionally, the Karst Interest Group encourages cooperative studies between the different disciplines of the U.S. Geological Survey and other Department of Interior agencies, and university researchers or research institutes.
The first Karst Interest Group Workshop was held in St. Petersburg, Florida, February, 13-16, 2001, in the vicinity of karst features of the Floridan aquifer. The proceeding of that first meeting, Water-Resources Investigations Report 01-4011 is available online at: http://water.usgs.gov/ogw/karst/index.htm. The U.S. Geological Survey, Office of Ground Water, provides support for the Karst Interest Group website.
The second Karst Interest Group workshop was held August 20-22, 2002 in Shepherdstown, West Virginia, in close proximity to the carbonate aquifers of the northern Shenandoah Valley. The proceedings of the second workshop were published in Water-Resources Investigations Report 02-4174, which is available online at the previously mentioned website.
The third workshop of the Karst Interest Group was held September 12-15, 2005 in Rapid City, South Dakota, which is in close proximity to karst features in the semi-arid Black Hills of South Dakota and Wyoming, Wind Cave National Park and Jewell Cave National Monument, and the Madison Limestone aquifer. Financial support of the third workshop was obtained from Wayne A. Mandell, U.S. Army Environmental Center; Louise Hose, National Cave and Karst Research Institute; Thomas J. Casadevall, Regional Director, Central Region, U.S. Geological Survey; and Kevin F. Dennehy, Ground-Water Resources Program Coordinator, U.S. Geological Survey.
Numerous individuals contributed to the workshop and proceedings, and especially to the development of the field trips to karst features of the Black Hills in South Dakota and Wyoming. Three field trips were offered at this workshop, none of which were duplicative, as evidenced in the three field trip guides. Trips to the southern and northern karst features of the Black Hills were scheduled for Monday and Thursday and the third field trip to the western part of the Black Hills was designed to be accomplished on your own using the field trip guide. These field trips allow attendees of all the previous workshops to compare karst in the more humid eastern United States to karst in the semi-arid central United States. Geologist Emeritus, USGS, Jack Epstein agreed to help lead the planning and development of the field trips and field trip guides. The members of the Field Trip Committee are: David Weary, Andrew Long, and Larry Putnam, USGS; Rod Horrocks and Mike Wiles, National Park Service; Arden Davis and Scott Miller, South Dakota SMT; Larry Agenbroad and Kristine Thomas, Mammoth Site; Mark Fahrenbach and Foster Sawyer, South Dakota Department of Environmental and Natural Resources; and Bob Paulson, The Nature Conservancy. Larry Putnam also helped with logistical support for the field trips and the meeting. Additionally, Linda Stool and Todd Suess, Superintendents of Wind and Jewel Cave National Parks, respectively, have given permission for two guided evening trips for 25 people at their Parks. Rod Horrocks and Mike Wiles, Cave Specialists at Wind and Jewel Cave National Parks, respectively, will lead each evening trip.
The session planning committee for this third workshop included: Louise Hose, National Cave and Karst Research Institute; and Alan Burns, Kevin Dennehy, Perry Jones, Brian Katz, Eve Kuniansky, Randy Orndorff, Bruce Smith, Larry Spangler, Greg Stanton, and Chuck Taylor, U.S. Geological Survey, and Jack Epstein, Geologist Emeritus, U.S. Geological Survey. We sincerely hope that this workshop promotes future collaboration among scientists of varied backgrounds and improves our understanding of karst systems in the United States and its territories.
The extended abstracts of U.S. Geological Survey authors were reviewed and approved for publication by the U.S. Geological Survey. Articles submitted by university researchers and other Department of Interior agencies did not go through the U.S. Geological Survey review process, and therefore may not adhere to our editorial standards or stratigraphic nomenclature. All articles were edited for consistency of appearance in the published proceedings. The use of trade names in any article does not constitute endorsement by the U.S. Government.
The cover illustration was designed by Ann Tihansky, U.S. Geological Survey, St. Petersburg, Florida, for the first Karst Interest Group Workshop.
Eve L. Kuniansky
Karst Interest Group Coordinator
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