Most of the information below is courtesy of the Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation and a caving blog they published on 10/10/2012.
Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation: Virginia Natural Heritage Karst Program
Cave and Karst Protection
Virginia has 27 karst counties in the western part of the state in the Valley and Ridge region:
What Exactly is Karst?
Karst is a landscape formed from the dissolution of soluble rocks including limestone, dolomite and gypsum. It is characterized by sinkholes, caves, and underground drainage systems (Fig. 1). Nearly all surface karst features are formed by internal drainage, subsidence, and collapse triggered by the development of underlying caves (Palmer, 1991). Rainwater becomes acidic as it comes in contact with carbon dioxide in the atmosphere and the soil. As it drains into fractures in the rock, the water begins to dissolve away the rock creating a network of passages. Over time, water flowing through the network continues to erode and enlarge the passages; this allows the plumbing system to transport increasingly larger amounts of water (Gunn, 2004). This process of dissolution leads to the development of the caves, sinkholes, springs, and sinking streams typical of a karst landscape.
So, to sum:
Karst- a landscape resulting to a significant degree from the dissolution of bedrock
Karst- landscapes are most commonly underlain by limestone and dolostone bedrock.
Karst- landscape features include sinkholes, sinking and losing streams, caves, and large flow springs.
Karst- landscapes are characterized by underground drainage networks that commonly bypass surface drainage divides.
Karst- landscapes provide and support habitat for rare animal and plant species, including bats, cave-adapted invertebrates, plants that grow on the surface and at springs and seeps, and fish and mussels living in streams and rivers fed by karst springs.
Karst- landscapes supply water for many Virginians. Land use activities place these water supplies at risk.
- Rivers leading to the Chesapeake Bay start in and flow through karst topography in Virginia.
The program- The purpose of Project Underground is to create and build awareness of and responsible attitudes toward karst and cave resources and their management needs. The project is an environmental education program designed to promote better understanding of caves and karstlands. It is a supplemental program for use by educators of kindergarten through high school age students. Participants in Project Underground activities will gain an understanding of how the underground environment is an important part of the total environment.
Workshops- Project Underground materials are available through workshops held in your area. During these workshops, you will participate in hands-on activities, learn more about caves and karst ecology, and expand your knowledge and teaching skills. You will also meet and share ideas, information and resources with other professionals.