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non-scientists, karst science, speleogenetic theories, karst aquifers

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The direction of cave and karst science throughout its history has been partly determined by communication—or, more commonly, the lack of communication—between non-scientist cavers and non-caving physical geologists writing about karst. Within each community, advancement of ‘cave awareness’ occurred through a hermeneutic circle in which ‘forestructures’ guided progress. One result was regionalism of speleo-genetic theories developed within karst science because of the weight of evidence placed upon local or regional observations. Many speleogenetic theories of the mid-1900s suffer from this parochialism, failing to take into account findings from karst of different geologic settings. During the past half-century, the accumulated worldwide data on caves and karst suggest larger, more encompassing theories of speleogenesis. One such example of how speleogenetic theories have changed, partly explored in this essay, is the relation of cave formation to the position of the water-table. In many karst aquifers, including but not limited to alpine systems, one modern view envisions the enlargement of caves to proceed in a punctuated manner, driven by floods.


Earth Sciences History editor David Oldroyd graciously granted permission to include this article in the repository (email 2011-05-20).

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Earth Sciences History, v. 30, issue 1, p. 85-105

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