Project

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Geometry, genesis and dynamic of the Yucatan karstic system

English title Geometry, genesis and dynamic of the Yucatan karstic system
Applicant Renard Philippe
Number 141298
Funding scheme Project funding (Div. I-III)
Research institution Centre d'hydrogéologie et de géothermie Université de Neuchâtel
Institution of higher education University of Neuchatel - NE
Main discipline Other disciplines of Earth Sciences
Start/End 01.10.2012 - 31.10.2016
Approved amount 503'252.00
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All Disciplines (3)

Discipline
Other disciplines of Earth Sciences
Geomorphology
Hydrology, Limnology, Glaciology

Keywords (4)

Speleogenesis; Stochastic geometry; Numerical modeling; Hydrogeology

Lay Summary (English)

Lead
Lay summary

The aim of the project is to better understand the formation and behavior of large and complex karstic systems. This implies the development of new measurement and field methods, as well as new modeling techniques allowing a detailed analysis of field observations and hypothesis testing.

The field site for the project will be the Yucatan peninsula in Mexico, since it is one of the largest karstic systems in the world and because a large amount of data is already available.

The research involves two main scientific questions: 1/ How such a massive karstic system has formed? 2/ How is it functioning today?

These questions are not yet answered satisfactorily. The formation of the system is thought to be mainly the result of calcite dissolution enhanced by mixing of salt and fresh-water, but some authors argue that vertical heat transport in the peninsula enhances the mixing and this thermo-haline convection could be the main driving force for the formation of the vertical structures named cenote. Other authors disagree and reject the idea that heat is an important factor in the process. In terms of the current functioning of the aquifer, its detailed dynamic is not yet well understood and modeled because it involves complex interactions between freshwater, seawater, and tidal effects under a very small head gradient. All the current models of the system could not account for all those processes and they provide therefore only a general description of the overall behavior.

To go a step further, we propose to focus on the two main aspects.

We first aim at understanding the evolution of the permeability and the genesis of the karst system of the Yucatan peninsula over geological time scales. It includes the understanding of the long term effect of the interaction between fresh water and salt water on the dissolution as well as the role of the thermal regime.

We then aim at understanding the properties of the regional-scale preferential flow paths. More precisely it involves understanding the geometry of the current conduit systems and how it influences the regional flow and solute transport. The geometry is a result of the speleogenesis processes and therefore the two questions are intimately related.

Trying to answer those two questions requires the acquisition of additional data to reduce the current lack of hydrological monitoring data. It also requires the development of new groundwater flow and transport models accounting for turbulent flow in the conduits and exchanges with the matrix as well as considering heat transfer and reactive transport to allow modeling the dissolution of the calcite over geological scale. This tool will allow comparing various assumptions and testing whether the geothermal convection plays a significant role or not.

Direct link to Lay Summary Last update: 21.02.2013

Responsible applicant and co-applicants

Employees

Publications

Publication
A survey of groundwater quality in Tulum region, Yucatan Peninsula, Mexico
Saint-Loup Renaud, Felix Théo, Maqueda Axaycatl, Schiller Arnulf, Renard Philippe (2018), A survey of groundwater quality in Tulum region, Yucatan Peninsula, Mexico, in Environmental Earth Sciences, 77(18), 644-644.
An optical laser device for mapping 3D geometry of underwater karst structures: First tests in the Ox Bel’Ha system, Yucatan, Mexico
Arnulf Schiller and Philippe Renard (2016), An optical laser device for mapping 3D geometry of underwater karst structures: First tests in the Ox Bel’Ha system, Yucatan, Mexico, in Boletin Geologico y Minero, 127(1), 99-110.
Fractal dimension, walk dimension and conductivity exponent of karst networks around Tulum
Hendrick Martin, Renard Philippe (2016), Fractal dimension, walk dimension and conductivity exponent of karst networks around Tulum, in Frontiers in Physics, -.
Subnetworks of Percolation Backbones to Model Karst Systems Around Tulum, Mexico
Hendrick Martin, Renard Philippe (2016), Subnetworks of Percolation Backbones to Model Karst Systems Around Tulum, Mexico, in Frontiers in Physics, -.

Collaboration

Group / person Country
Types of collaboration
DHI-Wasy Germany (Europe)
- in-depth/constructive exchanges on approaches, methods or results
- Publication
- Exchange of personnel
University of Lorraine France (Europe)
- in-depth/constructive exchanges on approaches, methods or results
- Publication
Amigos de Sian Ka'an Mexico (North America)
- in-depth/constructive exchanges on approaches, methods or results
- Publication

Scientific events

Active participation

Title Type of contribution Title of article or contribution Date Place Persons involved
Eurokarst 2016 Talk given at a conference Modelling the development of karst network systems on carbonate platforms 05.09.2016 Neuchâtel, Switzerland, Switzerland Renard Philippe; Maqueda Estrada Axayacatl;
Eurokarst 2016 Poster Groundwater flow and solute transport modeling in the Ox Bel Ha karst system (Quintana Roo, Mexico) 05.09.2016 Neuchâtel, Switzerland Maqueda Estrada Axayacatl; Hendrick Martin; Renard Philippe;
Eurokarst 2016 Talk given at a conference Statistical physics based models to study karst network geometry and topology in the area of Tulum. 05.09.2016 Neuchâtel, Switzerland Renard Philippe; Hendrick Martin;
Feflow conference 2015 Talk given at a conference Modelling the Matrix Permeability Gradient Due to Exchange of Water Between Conduit and Matrix in a Karst Aquifer 21.09.2015 Berlin, Germany Renard Philippe; Maqueda Estrada Axayacatl;
Séminaire de la Faculté des Géosciences et de l'Environnement de l'Université de Lausanne Individual talk Stochastic modeling of karst 21.05.2015 Lausanne, Switzerland Renard Philippe;
American Geophysical Union Fall Meeting Poster Porosity Development in a Coastal Setting: A Reactive Transport Model to Assess the Influence of Heterogeneity of Hydrological, Geochemical and Lithological Conditions 15.12.2014 San Francisco, United States of America Maqueda Estrada Axayacatl; Renard Philippe;
American Geophysical Union Fall Meeting Talk given at a conference How to quantify the quality of karst network models ? 15.12.2014 San Francisco, United States of America Renard Philippe;
American Geophysical Union Fall Meeting Poster Statistical spatial graphs to study the topology and geometry of large karst networks 14.12.2014 San Francisco, United States of America Hendrick Martin;
5th International Symposium on Karst Talk given at a conference A laser technique for capturing cross sections in dry and underwater caves 14.10.2014 Malaga, Spain Supper Robert;
5th International Symposium on Karst Poster Statistical spatial graphs to study the topology and geometry of large karst networks 14.10.2014 Malaga, Spain Hendrick Martin;
5th International Symposium on Karst Talk given at a conference Groundwater geochemistry characterization as an input for karst network development model, Yucatan Peninsula, Mexico 14.10.2014 Malaga, Spain Renard Philippe; Maqueda Estrada Axayacatl;
Near Surface Geoscience 2014, 20th European Meeting of Environmental and Engineering Geophysics Talk given at a conference Geophysics for the Determination of Hydrological Parameters of Karst Systems in Yucatan, Mexico 14.09.2014 Athens, Greece Maqueda Estrada Axayacatl; Renard Philippe; Hendrick Martin; Supper Robert;


Awards

Title Year
Young Karst Researcher Prize awarded by the Iinternational Association of Hydrogeology Karst Commission. 2016

Associated projects

Number Title Start Funding scheme
106557 Mathematical hydrogeology: from characterization to forecasts 01.10.2005 SNSF Professorships

Abstract

The aim of the project is to better understand the formation and behavior of large and complex karstic systems. This implies the development of new measurement and field methods, as well as new modeling techniques allowing a detailed analysis of field observations and hypothesis testing. The field site for the project will be the Yucatan peninsula in Mexico, since it is one of the largest karstic systems in the world and because a large amount of data is already available even if, as we will see in the proposal, some key information are still missing.The research involves two main scientific questions:• How such a massive karstic system has formed?• How is it functioning today?These questions are not yet answered satisfactorily. The formation of the system is thought to be mainly the result of calcite dissolution enhanced by mixing of salt and fresh-water, but some authors argue that vertical heat transport in the peninsula enhances the mixing and this thermo-haline convection could be the main driving force for the formation of the vertical structures named cenote. Other authors disagree and reject the idea that heat is an important factor in the process. In terms of the current functioning of the aquifer, its detailed dynamic is not yet well understood and modeled because it involves complex interactions between freshwater, seawater, and tidal effects under a very small head gradient. All the current models of the system could not account for all those processes and they provide therefore only a general description of the overall behavior.To go a step further, we propose in this project to focus on the two main aspects.• We first aim at understanding the evolution of the permeability and the genesis of the karst system of the Yucatan peninsula over geological time scales. It includes in particular the understanding of the long term effect of the interaction between fresh water and salt water on the dissolution as well as the role of the thermal regime.• We then aim at understanding the properties of the regional-scale preferential flow paths. More precisely it involves understanding the geometry of the current conduit systems and how it influences the regional flow and solute transport. The geometry is a result of the speleogenesis processes and therefore the two questions are intimately related.Trying to answer those two questions requires the acquisition of additional data to reduce the current lack of hydrological monitoring data. It also requires the development of new groundwater flow and transport models accounting for turbulent flow in the conduits and exchanges with the matrix as well as considering heat transfer and reactive transport to allow modeling the dissolution of the calcite over geological scale. This tool will allow to compare various assumptions and test whether the geothermal convection plays a significant role or not.To reach those objectives, the project involves three teams: the University of Neuchâtel which will coordinate the project, the Geological Survey of Austria which has extensive experience in geophysical exploration in the region, and the Centro del Agua in Mexico which has a strong finite element modeling expertise.
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