Karst terrain, or karst topography, is a landscape underlain by bedrock of limestone, dolomite, or other material that can is more soluble in water than other types of bedrock. The solubility of the bedrock results in a landscape characterized by caves, sinkholes, and other unusual surface and groundwater features. Karst terrain has gotten increased attention in Virginia in 2015, because the proposed route for the Mountain Valley natural gas pipeline would pass through karst areas in several western Virginia counties. But beyond its connection to natural gas pipelines, karst terrain presents special concerns for other land uses and their potential connections to groundwater resources. In addition, karst-terrain caves have biological significance, providing habitats for bats, certain amphibians, and other creatures.
Here are some sources of information on karst terrain in general and in relation to natural gas pipelines.
Karst in Virginia
Duncan Adams, Karst landscapes bring challenges, concerns for pipeline projects; Areas with sinkholes, springs and caves may be vulnerable to problems, Roanoke Times, 10/25/15.
Virginia Cave Board, online at http://www.dcr.virginia.gov/natural_heritage/cavehome.shtml. Regarding natural gas pipelines, see particularly “Frequently Asked Questions About Natural Gas Transmission Pipelines Through Karst Terrains,” online (as PDF) at http://www.dcr.virginia.gov/natural-heritage/document/faq-nat-gas-trans-pipelines-karst.pdf.
Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation/Virginia Natural Heritage Karst Program, online at http://www.dcr.virginia.gov/natural-heritage/karsthome.
Virginia Water Resources Research Center, “In the Cave, by Pepe Deluxe, for Virginia Cave Week,” Virginia Water Radio Episode 158 (4-22-13), audio and show notes online at http://www.virginiawaterradio.org/2013/04/episode-158-4-22-13-in-cave-by-pepe.html.
Bryant Watershed Project of West Plains, Missouri, “Karst in the Ozarks,” online at http://www.watersheds.org/earth/karst.html.
Kentucky Geological Survey, “Karst Land in Kentucky,” online at https://www.uky.edu/KGS/water/general/karst/index.htm.
National Speleological Society, online at http://www.caves.org/.
U.S. Geological Survey, “Karst Topography – Teacher’s Guide and Paper Model,” online at http://geomaps.wr.usgs.gov/parks/cave/karst.html.
George Veni et al., “Living with Karst,” American Geological Institute Environmental Awareness Series, 2001; available online (as PDF) at http://www.agiweb.org/environment/publications/karst.pdf.