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Geoscientist Online

Advances in Karst Research: Theory, Fieldwork and Applications

Parise karst researchThe challenge for any book about karst research is focus—what constitutes research and what appeals to the generalist. The editors define karst as the slow work of dissolution exerted by water on soluble rocks. At first glance, karst research appears as a narrow field—as many cavers can attest! However, despite the definition, the papers range far and wide, covering topics from petroleum geology to conservation.

The editors deftly tee up the book by reminding readers that 14% of Earth’s surface is potentially karstic and that 15% of the world’s population drink water from karst aquifers. These bold claims are reflected in four sections—karst geology, geomorphology and speleogenesis; karst hydrology; karst modelling; and karst hazards and management. This editorial approach has risks, because it gives the impression of a lack of clear direction or even worse, good research topics.

Key contributions show the reader that karst research can provide Earth scientists with windows on geological processes that are difficult to unwind from the geological record. The papers on Israeli caves, for example, illustrate how speleothems provide details of both climate and vegetation changes over the past 3 million years. Likewise, the work on denudation, eustacy and uplift demonstrates the importance of understanding karst processes before determining subsidence rates or tectonic uplift.

One major criticism of the publication is the poor editing of the papers—did anyone (Book Society Editors?) read some of these papers before publishing? There is no excuse for verbosity or overly long papers, particularly where the authors have published extensively on the subject.

The editors state, “there are many unresolved theoretical problems in karst processes, water flow, and mass and heat transport”—this publication does not go far enough in trying to resolve some of these problems and, rather than having focus, has taken a shotgun approach in attempting to ground key issues.

Reviewed by Stephen Crabtree

ADVANCES IN KARST RESEARCH: THEORY, FIELDWORK AND APPLICATIONS by M Parise, F Gabrovsek, G Kaufmann & N Ravbar (eds) 2018. Published by: Geological Society of London, SP 466, 486pp (hbk). ISBN978-1-78620-359-5 List price: £130.00. Fellow’s price: £65.00. W: