Caves as a Measure of Karst

Rane L. Curl

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The development of a statistical distribution of proper entrances among proper caves in a limestone karst is considered as a geomorphic process and described with stochastic geomorphic models. The models assume that entrances form and close independently at entrance sites and that the sites are randomly distributed among caves. Analysis of 820 caves in 10 regions on this basis finds that the best model is one assuming a proportional length dependence for mean site frequency on each cave. This model is used to obtain a constant which is characteristic of a karst and to predict the number and length distributions of entranceless caves and the length distribution of all caves in each region. The karst constant varies from about 0.0001 to 0.01 $ft{-1}$. Comparisons between the karst constants in the different regions suggest a correlation with the underlying karst processes and disclose an apparently unique karst situation in County Clare, Ireland. Predictions of complete length distributions of all caves show similarities not found in observed length distributions and support the conclusion that the proper interpretation of a cave region demands information about unobservable caves.