Hydrological and Ecological Problems of Karst Regions

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Science  02 Mar 1973:
Vol. 179, Issue 4076, pp. 859-864
DOI: 10.1126/science.179.4076.859


Climate exerts a universal dominant influence on ecology, but processes of karstification have an equally high ecological influence in carbonate rock regions. Development of karst features depends greatly on the degree to which water containing carbon dioxide has been able to move on and through carbonate rocks and to remove some of the rock in solution. Distinctive features of many karst terranes include scarcity of soils, scarcity of surface streams, and rugged topography; less distinctive are the highly permeable and cavernous rocks, especially at the shallow depths. This high permeability gives rise to many practical problems, including (i) scarcity and poor predictability of groundwater supplies, (ii) scarcity of surface streams, (iii) instability of the ground, (iv) leakage of surface reservoirs, and (v) an unreliable waste-disposal environment.

Natural karst processes in some carbonate rock regions have caused a greater restriction in the development of biota than man can ever be suspected of causing.