Northern Velebit (Croatia) karst hydrological system: results of a preliminary 2H and 18O stable isotope study

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Dalibor Paar
Diana Mance
Andrej Stroj
Mirja Pavić


Researching the hydrogeological properties of karst systems is very challenging due to their extreme heterogeneity. A grey-box approach in karst research combines the results from classical hydrogeological methods with direct observations within the karstic underground, i.e. in the caves. Isotope research has become a widely used method in the investigation of karst systems. The results presented are of a preliminary 2H and 18O stable isotope study of the Northern Velebit karst system (Croatia) employing the grey-box approach. Groundwater samples were collected during two summer expeditions in deep caves within the karst massif. Monthly precipitation samples were also collected (at three locations between approx. 900 m and 1600 m altitude), as well as water samples at some of the most significant springs, i.e. discharge outlets of the system. For a single expedition, the stable isotope composition is almost constant, i.e. the stable isotope measurements are within the measurement error across the complete cave profile. Similar characteristics across different caves during the same year were also noted. Samples of water from the springs were taken during base-flow conditions and they have similar isotopic contents to the cave water. The results obtained indicate that homogenization of the water already occurs within the subsurface epikarst zone above the sampling locations in the caves, but a future extended sampling campaign during variable hydrologic conditions is needed to confirm this. The final research goal is to establish a conceptual grey-box model for the functioning of this complex hydrogeological system.


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