In 1998, the National Cave and Karst Research Institute (NCKRI) was established by a U.S. Congressional mandate to facilitate and support cave and karst research, stewardship and education. I am delighted to introduce this new publication series, NCKRI Special Papers, as an essential part of NCKRI?s efforts to meet that mandate. I?m equally pleased that this first book in the series is the highly important work of NCKRI?s first visiting scholar, Dr. Alexander B. Klimchouk.
Caves are resources hidden from the view of the general public and most scientists. Their value often goes unrecognized because they are either not seen or misunderstood. Historically, caves were ignored by many geoscientist, in part because they didn?t ?follow the rules? of groundwater behavior and thus ?had? to be anomalous features of little significance. While this view has mostly changed, many scientists who realized the significance of caves had and still have the mistaken notion that areas of carbonate and evaporate rocks that contain few or no caves are not karst. This book shatters those myths and makes great strides in explaining what had been some of the most puzzling aspects of karst hydrogeology.
Dr. Klimchouk carefully explains the origin of hypogenic caves and karst, and demonstrates it with a rich, international array of examples and data. While most karst literature focuses on epigenic karst, formed by descending groundwater, hypogenic karst stems from ascending groundwater. Understanding the characteristic set of hypogenic morphological and hydrological features, and the processes that create them, is crucial for developing accurate models, and effective management plans for these karst systems. This is vital because hypogenic karst is especially poorly expressed at the surface, and so its vulnerability as a public water supply, risk of sinkhole collapse, and value as a mineral resource can be severely underestimated.
While this book focuses on karst hydrogeology and Speleogenesis, it also has important implications for many other disciplines, such as understanding the ranges and speciation of cavernicolous organisms, landscaper evolution, and the distribution of paleontological and archeological deposits, to name a few. At a fundamentally crucial level, the great geographic breadth of hypogenic karst will soon be realized directly as a result of this work. Certainly some concepts presented here will be refined with continued research, but this book firmly establishes a new paradigm that will guide much karst research for decades to come.