Wednesday, 20 Mar 2019

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Australian scientists go deep into caves to study climate change impact

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Health Desk: 11 April 2018: Scientists from University of New South Wales (NSW) in Australia are moving into caves to understand how climate change and land use are affecting groundwater resources.

According to information given by the university, researchers-including those from Germany-are looking at ancient limestone structures in Wellington Caves in NSW to better study soil moisture, as part of an international project.

The Wellington Caves, located 8km south of Wellington NSW, are a major tourist attraction for their beautiful stalagmites, stalactites, and coral.

For the project, junior professor Andreas Hartmann of the University of Freiburg in Germany has teamed up with UNSW professor Andy Baker of the School of Biological, Earth and Environmental Sciences.

The scientists have set up a long-term experimental site to measure soil moisture above the Wellington Caves. Results from this experiment will be compared with the recharge reaching Cathedral Cave-the largest and most popular of the caves below the ground - which is already being recorded using equipment that measures cave drips.

“This is the only cave and karst environment in the world where the rainfall, the soil moisture and the water infiltration to the groundwater are being measured at the same time,” said Professor Baker.

Karst is a topography formed from the dissolution of soluble rocks such as limestone, dolomite, and gypsum. Karst regions contain aquifers that are capable of providing large supplies of water.

He said the research project would also be a resource for research students, science teachers, and cave guides.

Hartmann said that soil moisture measurements in karst had rarely been done, adding: “We expect exciting results from our global monitoring system.”