Bulletin of the National Speleological Society - ISSN 0146-9517
Volume 30 Number 4: 115-129 - October 1968

A publication of the National Speleological Society

Dynamics of Sediment Transport in Limestone Caves
Elizabeth L. White and William B. White


Groundwater moving through maturely karsted limestone aquifers may carry, in addition to a dissolved load extraced from solution of the wall rock, clastic material as suspended load or as bedload. All of the insoluble residues from the solution of the limestone and in some cases, large quantities of material from overlying or adjacent clastic rocks must be transported out of closed drainage basins by the action of cave streams. Portions of the tranported material are deposited en route to form the richly varied clastic cave sediments. Applicaton of standard engineering formulae for sediment transport indicate that flows with a threshold velocity on the order of tenths of a foot per second are necessay to transport the coarse sediments. Suspended load is important in the transport of fine sediments but requires flows at least in the turbulent regime. A tentative conclusion is drawn that clastic load transport by fast-moving water is an integral part of the develeopment of many karst drainage nets and that extensive development of integrated drainage nets by percolating waters is unlikely.

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