Public Release: 

Caves and karst: Worlds within worlds across time

GSA Special Paper 516

Geological Society of America


IMAGE: Gothic Palace forms in Lehman Cave, Great Basin National Monument, Nevada, USA. view more

Credit: Photo copyright 2008 by Hilton Freed.

Karst aquifers are the world's most productive yet vulnerable groundwater systems, serving as the sole or primary water supply for more than one billion people worldwide. Karst systems have evolved dynamically across time, reflecting changes in climate and regional tectonism and the subsequent crustal scale hydrologic responses invoked by these processes. Caves are widely recognized as important geological features and, with karst, as distinctive and significant geologic systems covering approx. 20% of Earth's land surface.

The appreciation and knowledge of cave and karst systems have evolved dramatically since the establishment of The Geological Society of America (GSA) in 1888. Across time, geoscientists' understanding of the complexity of groundwater flow within karst and epikarst systems drives them to examine more deeply such processes as heterogeneous flow processes, contamination studies, and hazard assessment.

Cave deposits are some of the richest and most diverse sources for geological, archeological, and biological discoveries. Cave fauna and microorganisms offer startling insights into geological processes while pointing the way toward finding extraterrestrial life.

This Special Paper, edited by Joshua M. Feinberg of the University of Minnesota, Yongli Gao of the University of Texas at San Antonio, and E. Calvin Alexander Jr. of the University of Minnesota, highlights the changes in the study and application of cave and karst systems since GSA's origin, while looking ahead to future advancements.


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Book editors of earth science journals/publications may request a review copy by contacting April Leo,

Caves and Karst Across Time
Edited by Joshua M. Feinberg, Yongli Gao, and E. Calvin Alexander Jr. Geological Society of America Special Paper 516
SPE516, 300 p., $85; GSA member price $60
ISBN 978-0-8137-2516-1
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Contact: Kea Giles

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