Frontiers of Karst Research


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Publication Date

January 2008


Some of the world's most exotic landscapes and rare and endangered organisms are in regions characterized as karst, a term used to describe landscapes containing the caves, sinkholes, sinking streams and springs that form in soluble rock, especially limestone. Until fairly recently research on karst in the U.S. was carried out in a relatively few universities by a few individuals and their students. Research was tightly focused on the details of cave ecosystems, karst processes and karst hydrogeology. Also until fairly recently, the karst lands of the United States were located in rural areas where their special characteristics caused relatively few problems. Both situations have changed. Research on karst is now underway in many institutions, some with substantial groups of faculty and students specializing in the subject. Urbanization and population growth have pushed into the karst lands so that water supplies, ground water contamination, and land hazards such as sinkhole collapse and sinkhole flooding create increasingly large economic and human impacts. Karst research has been found to have much wider scientific and societal implications than previously recognized (e.g. paleoclimate archives and water resources). For the biologists and microbiologists, caves have been found to be good models for extreme environments, a subject of a great deal of current interest. The broad array of intellectual challenges facing karst researchers can best be met by multidisciplinary teams who focus their efforts on understanding related problems that crosstraditional disciplinary boundaries. Such efforts will require extensive planning and highly focused cooperation among disparate groups of researchers. The workshop reported in this document had, as its objective, bringing together a representative cross-section of these scholars so that the current state of knowledge could be assessed and some guidance constructed for the future. The Karst Waters Institute’s workshop on “Future Directions in Karst Research” took place in S


Limestone, Kart Process, Springs, Caves

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Special Publication, Vol. 13 (2008-01-01).