Karst at depth below the sea level around the Mediterranean due to the Messinian crisis of salinity. Hydrogeological consequences and issues


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Geologica Belgica

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For many Mediterranean countries, karst aquifers offer an essential water resource. Their characteristics are mentioned as well as the specificity of Mediterranean karsts, determined by a particular climate and over all a recent complex geological history. The Messinian Crisis of Salinity (MCS), a major event which occurred 5.3 My ago, allowed the development of valleys and karst very lowly below present sea-level. Ignored by hydrogeologists and karstologists until the 90’s, the MCS is now considered as a major period for developing karst conduits at great depth below the present sea level. The karst system of Chekka, Lebanon, and its large submarine springs are taken as an example to show the functioning of such coastal aquifers. The main consequences are here presented and analyzed in order to point out the absolute necessity for improving the knowledge on karst aquifers and regional hydrogeology. Karst submarine springs, typical of Mediterranean coasts, are considered as a non-conventional interesting resource, what will be discussed. The main issue is an efficient and sustainable management and protection of these groundwater resources in regions where the population density is highest and the economic activities are concentrated. Some new avenues of research and development are proposed.

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