2021 CSDMS meeting-028

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DKARST.py: modeling abrasional wear of scalloped bedrock in caves

Rachel Bosch, University of Cincinnati Cincinnati Ohio, United States. karstgeomorph@gmail.com



The extent to which chemical and mechanical erosion each contribute to the erosion of cave passages in limestone is an open question. In mixed cave riverbeds that are partially alluviated and partially exposed limestone bedrock, we sometimes see clearly scalloped bedrock. The uniquely soluble properties of limestone imply that these scallops that tessellate to comprise the scalloped bedrock are the result of chemical dissolution. However, because we see silt, sand, and gravel, and because when we visit the same reach of the cave river many times, we see those sediment deposits shift in size and location, we infer that there may also be physical abrasion from sediment impacts on the scalloped bedrock surface. In this paper, we compare the equations that describe dissolution of limestone with those that describe abrasion of bedrock to prove that dissolution and abrasion may be co-occurring processes. Using our numerical model, DKARST (Does karst abrasion result in scalloped tunnels?), in conjunction with previous data from dissolution studies, we quantified parameters that delineate four distinct erosional zones according to the likelihood of contribution to overall erosion from dissolution, abrasion, or both processes combined. We then generalized those erosional zones to a range of scalloped bedrock morphology characteristic wavelengths. Our investigation of the role of mechanical erosion to the scalloping of bedrock in caves provides insight into the settling velocities of particles in turbulent flow over rough beds, as well as the relative roles played by mechanical and chemical processes in broader scale landscape evolution, particularly in karst regions dominated by carbonate bedrock.