Undergraduate course

Karst Geology and Karst Hydrology

Objectives and Content

The interaction between precipitation, groundwater and easily soluble rocks produces a peculiar landscape: karst. The karst landscape is characterized by a serrated and undermined land surface, lack of surface drainage, caves, streamsinks and springs. The purpose of the course is to give a thorough introduction to the interaction between process and form, how karst continue to develop over longer timespans, and how the processes react to environmental change. Karst is an important resource for groundwater, it is often the only source of water in many densely populated areas; fossil karst (paleokarst) host metallic mineralizations and petroleum. Caves are unique archives for archaeology, biology and climatic change. The topic will convey the understanding of vulnerability; processes, intricate corrosion forms and in particular the content of caves are sensitive to environmental and man-made changes and demands dedicated management to avoid destruction.

The theoretical course presents the fundamental chemical processes in carbonate dissolution with emphasis on reaction rates (kinetics) and its interplay with groundwater movement and speleogenesis. The principles are then extended to landform development, and is used to discuss various morphological elements formed at and below the land surface. The contents of caves, speleochronology and extensions to climate- and environmental history is explained. Karst is important for society, as water and petroleum reservoirs and as targets for tourism is discussed. The study of karst aquifers, their dynamics and ┬┐black box┬┐ methods are explained through examples and practical excercises. The field course gives the student a thorough, practical introduction in surface and cave geomorphology and the use of practical hydrological techniques as applied on karst. The student is trained in cave surveying and morphometry on surface forms. The course offers the student skills and knowledge of safe and traceless travel in caves. The field course is physically demanding. The laboratory exercises consist of dissolution rate experiments and analysis of karst water. ]

Learning Outcomes

On completion of the course the student should have the following learning outcomes defined in terms of knowledge, skills and general competence:

The student canexplain

  • fundamental concepts, definitios and theories of speleogensesis and karst geomrophology
  • the dynamics and synergy between dissolution kinetics, fluid flow and speleogenesis
  • meteoric and hypogenetic speleogenesis
  • the development of karst landscapes through long timespans and how different modes of karstification dominate under various climatic regimes
  • mineralization processes in karst
  • the formation of relict karst and paleokarst
  • methods and results in speleochronology and give examples on how speleothems and sediments are used to date landscape development and provide archives of environment, fauna and palaeoanthropology
  • which geohazards that are associated with karst
  • the dilemma between tourism and management of a vulnerable resource

The student

  • can recognize and classify surface forms and speleogens in the field and suggest genetic interpretations
  • can recognize and classify various cave sediments, mineralizations and speleothems and dicuss their use in speleochronology and landscape evolution
  • has acquired skills in discharge gauging and tracing underground water flow
  • has participated in and can explain a practical dissolution rate experiment of calcium carbonate and calculate the reaction rate
  • has participated in and can explain the chemical analysis of macro components in karst water and calculation of the saturation state
  • has acquired skills in cave mapping and morphological interpretations
  • has acquired skills to strive for safe and traceless travel in caves

General competence
The student can

  • use a precise professional language for descrption and discussion of processes and events in karst and link them to other geological phenomena and their terminology
  • explain karst phenomena and the underlying processes in relation to climate- and landform development and their role as geo-resources
  • explain and advocate for the layman the various strategies for the management of karst, groundwater and how to strive for traceless travel in caves

Required Previous Knowledge

GEOV101. Principles of geology and chemistry.

Access to the Course

Access to the course requires admission to a programme of study at The Faculty of Mathematics and Natural Sciences.

Teaching and learning methods

The teaching is based on lectures, field course and laboratory exercises.

Lectures: 2 hours a week for 12 weeks.

Fieldcourse: 7 days and nights for one week.

Laboratory exercises: 2 days.

Compulsory Assignments and Attendance

Compulsory assignments are valid for 2 subsequent semesters.

Forms of Assessment

The forms of assessment are:
Written examination (4 hours)

Examination Support Material

Non-programmable calculator, according to the faculty regulations

Grading Scale

The grading scale used is A to F. Grade A is the highest passing grade in the grading scale, grade F is a fail.

Assessment Semester

Examination both spring semester and autumn semester. In semesters without teaching the examination will be arranged at the beginning of the semester.

Reading List

The reading list will be available within June 1st for the autumn semester and Deecember 1st for the spring semester.

Course Evaluation

The course will be evaluated by the students in accordance with the quality assurance system at UiB and the department.

Programme Committee

The Programme Committee is responsible for the content, structure and quality of the study programme and courses.

Course Coordinator

The course coordinator and administrative contact person can be found on Mitt UiB, or you may contact studierettleiar@geo.uib.no

Course Administrator

The Faculty for Mathematics and Natural Sciences, Department of Earth Science has the administrative responsibility for the course and program


Contact Information

The student coordinator can be contacted here:


Tlf 55 58 35 19

Exam information

  • For written exams, please note that the start time may change from 09:00 to 15:00 or vice versa until 14 days prior to the exam. The exam location will be published 14 days prior to the exam.

  • Type of assessment: Written examination

    Withdrawal deadline