8 What is on the Horizon for Karst Aquifer Knowledge?

Karst aquifers are an important source of water supply for human activities in both urban and rural settings. They are globally distributed and, wherever they occur, provide unique freshwater resources that are vitally important to human life, as well as various aquatic and terrestrial ecosystems, and local-to-global-scale hydrologic and biogeochemical systems. The topic of Karst is extremely broad and there are many knowledge gaps that required further investigation.

Recent advances in computing technology and numerical groundwater modeling software, have revolutionized the investigation, characterization, and understanding of karst aquifer behavior, and the management and protection of karst water resources. Use of multidisciplinary and complementary field studies, such as water-tracing tests, analysis of spring discharge and water chemistry, advanced hydraulic testing in wells, geophysical methods, and geochemistry have advanced our knowledge of karst systems.

Yet, even with the use of the latest technology and multidisciplinary field methods, there are still numerous topics requiring further research to improve understanding of and assessing karst aquifers. Readers interested in undertaking graduate studies to enhance their ability to work in karst aquifer research may be interested in some of the following topics for future research:

  • human impacts on karst aquifers;
  • natural disasters related to groundwater processes in karst;
  • groundwater development unique to karst areas, such as aquifer recharge via sinkhole flooding;
  • relation between the ecosystems in karst areas with conservation and biodiversity maintenance how the restoration of plant communities provides better biosphere for soil microorganisms;
  • controls on nitrate dynamics and associated water age in the different landscape units in karst catchments;
  • relationship of epikarst to hydrologic (for example, recharge) and soil processes;
  • development of better distributed parameter models which can be used to incorporate and synthesize the known information about the hydrogeologic framework of the karst aquifer and gain an understanding of the system through the calibration process;
  • development and application of mathematical models for water resource management and incorporation of new game theory algorithms, economics, and optimization management algorithms;
  • improvement of geophysical tools, surface and borehole tailored to karst aquifers; especially tools that help map large porosity and conduit features in the subsurface;
  • development of educational material on karst terrane for communities and authorities; and,
  • development of karst areas as natural laboratories for use in multi and transdisciplinary teaching.

Studying these topics offers opportunities for those who work in the groundwater arena to improve conditions for humankind and ecological systems by better managing karst systems.


Introduction to Karst Aquifers Copyright © 2022 by Eve L. Kuniansky, Charles J. Taylor, and Frederick Paillet. All Rights Reserved.