The genesis and evolution of karstic conduit systems in the Chalk

Farrant, Andrew R.; Maurice, Louise; Ballesteros, Daniel; Nehme, Carole. 2022 The genesis and evolution of karstic conduit systems in the Chalk. In: Farrell, R.P.; Massei, N.; Foley, A., (eds.) The chalk aquifers of Northern Europe. London, UK, Geological Society of London, 23pp. (Geological Society Special Publication, 517).

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The Upper Cretaceous Chalk Group is renowned as a major aquifer, but the development of secondary porosity due to karstic conduits is poorly understood. Hydrogeological data and evidence from boreholes, sections, and tracer tests indicate that dissolutional conduits occur throughout the Chalk aquifer. Here, we assess the evidence for Chalk karst, and combine it with theoretical models of dissolution and cave formation to produce a conceptual model for the development of karstic conduits. Dissolution due to the mixing of saturated waters of contrasting chemistry along key lithostratigraphical inception horizons form extensive but isolated conduit networks. These form a significant proportion of the secondary porosity and enhance permeability. They prime the aquifer for the development of more integrated conduit networks formed by focussed recharge of unsaturated surface derived water. However, the porous, well-fractured nature of the Chalk means that the time needed to form large integrated cave systems is often longer than timescales of landscape change. Continued landscape evolution and water table lowering halts conduit development before they can enlarge into cave systems except where geological and geomorphological settings are favourable. Groundwater models need to consider the formation of secondary karst permeability as this has a major influence on groundwater flow.

Item Type: Publication - Book Section
Digital Object Identifier (DOI):
ISSN: 0305-8719
Additional Keywords: GroundwaterBGS, Groundwater
Date made live: 21 Dec 2021 12:54 +0 (UTC)

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