Karst Springs

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Karst Spring: Bill Walker-Karst Conservancy.


A Karst topography is formed when rock is dissolved, causing small fissures within the geologic structure. This soluble rock material is often limestone, dolomite, or gypsum. This caustic solution creates sinkholes in the soil surface and as it digs further into the rock, can create underground caverns and passageways. This allows precipitation and surface runoff to penetrate the soil horizons and fill subterranean caverns. This water can be held within the underground caverns, or exit though hydric tunnels. Karst springs are formed when water exits the subterranean matrix (though eroded tunnels) and forms surface pools.

Physical environment

Diagram of a Karst Formation.

The formation of the karst topography begins with the "carbon dioxide cascade." Rainfall absorbs CO2 from the atmosphere during droplet formation, while it falls as precipitation, or as it moves through the soil horizons. This forms carbonic acid (H2CO3).

H2O + CO2= H2CO3

As the acid comes in contact with the alkaline rock the two react, forming an aqueous solution that will further dissolve small channels within the soil. Slowly over decades channels will expand allowing larger volumes of water to pass through it.

Describe the physical and chemical characteristics of the environment, using as many sections/subsections as you require. Look at other topics available in MicrobeWiki. Which involve processes similar to yours? Create links where relevant.

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Biological interactions

Are there important biological interactions that are important in this environment? Do these interactions influence microbial populations and their activities? How do these interactions influence other organisms? Describe biological interactions that might take place in this environment, using as many sections/subsections as you require. Look at other topics available in MicrobeWiki. Create links where relevant.

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Microbial processes

What microbial processes define this environment? Describe microbial processes that are important in this habitat, adding sections/subsections as needed. Look at other topics in MicrobeWiki. Are some of these processes already described? Create links where relevant.

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Key Microorganisms


Actinomycetes- Responsible for odor of caves widespread due to lower temps and high humidity. found as specks in limestone. -Streptomycetes and nocardia

Nitrosomas and nitrobacter Leptothrix, Gallionella, Clonothrix

Thiobacillus, Beggiatoa, Thiothrix

Cyanobacteria: Geitleria calcarea, Scytonema julianum

Oscillatoria, Phormidium, Gleocapsa, and Lyngbya


chlorphyta, bacillariophyceae



What kind of microbes do we typically find in this environment? Or associated with important processes in this environment? Describe key groups of microbes that we find in this environment, and any special adaptations they may have evolved to survive in this environment. Add sections/subsections as needed. Look at other microbe listings in MicrobeWiki. Are some of the groups of microbes from your environment already described? Create links to those pages. Specific microbial populations will be included in the next section.

Examples of organisms within the group

List examples of specific microbes that represent key groups or are associated with important processes found in this environment. Link to other MicrobeWiki pages where possible.

Phylum/Class Genus
α-proteobacteria Rhizobium
β-proteobacteria Acidovorax
γ-proteobacteria Acinetobacter
Bacteroidetes Chryseobacterium
Firmicutes Bacillus
Actinobacteria Arthrobacter

Current Research

Enter summaries of recent research here--at least three required


Karst Maps by state

Lecture on Karst Aquifers: University of Texas


Cousin, S., Brambilla, E., Stackebrandt, E., and Yang, J. "Culturable aerobic bacteria from the upstreamregion of a karst water rivulet gen. nov., sp. nov., a barophilic, hyperthermophilic archaeon from a deep-sea hydrothermal vent chimney". German Collection of Microorganisms and Cell Cultures. 2008.

Earth Science Institute. "What is Karst?". University of Texas at Austin.

Encyclopedia of Cave and Karst Science. "Microorganisms In Caves".

Ercole, C., Cacchio, P., Cappucio, G., and Lepidi, A. "Deposition of calcium carbonate in karst caves: role of bacteria in stiffe's cave International Journal of Speleology. 2001. Volume 30A 1/4. p. 69-79.

International Association of Hydrogeologists. "Karst Hydrology". IAH Karst Commission. 2009

Ivanova, A., Golovchenko, A., and Dobrovol'skaya, T. "Bacterial Diversity in Peat Bogs of Karst Depressions". Moscow University Soil Science Bulletin. 2008. Volume 4. p. 52-56.

The Karst Conservancy. "What is Karst?".

Kentucky Geological Survey. "Introduction to Karst Groundwater".

Shabarova, T., Pernthaler, J. "Karst pools in subsurface environments: collectors of microbial diversity or temporary residence between habitat types" Environmental Microbiology. 2010. Volume 12. p. 1061-1074.

Edited by Benjamin Miller: student at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.