GSA Annual Meeting in Phoenix, Arizona, USA - 2019

Paper No. 90-11
Presentation Time: 11:15 AM


KAMBESIS, Patricia N., Center for Human Geoenvironmental Studies, Western Kentucky University, 1906 College Heights Blvd, Department of Geography & Geology, Bowling Green, KY 42127 and DESPAIN, Joel, National Cave and Karst Research Institute, 400-1 Cascades Avenue, Carlsbad, NM 88220

The Republic of Haiti consists of the western third of the island of Hispaniola with the remaining landmass in the Dominican Republic. Haiti is geologically complex and consists of a rugged topography which is reflected in its name derived from the Arawak place name “Ayti” for mountainous land. Approximately 75% of Haiti is composed of limestone terrain. In Haiti’s southern peninsula the mountains making up the backbone of the region are predominantly limestone interspersed with some volcanics and small coastal plains. The coastal areas also contain significant uplifted reef terraces that also occur on small islands off the coast. This diversity of geology influences the distribution of karst and type of cave development. The mountainous areas are dominated by fluvial karst consisting of spectacular cone karst, deep sinkholes, loosing and disappearing streams, caves, and resurgence springs that emerge along river beds and the fringing coastal plains. The uplifted reef terraces reflect changes in sea level during the Pleistocene and have been karstified by coastal mixing zones resulting in flank margin caves. Wave action on the southern coasts and islands resulted in littoral cave development as well as overprinting of littoral process on flank margin caves. Pseudokarst has also been documented in the form of tafoni and talus caves. The detailed study of cave and karst development in Haiti is in its early stages. Previous documentation was provided in colonial era narratives and later biological and archeological reports. Prior to the 1980’s there were no known cave exploration expeditions to systematically document caves in Haiti. The first documented modern cave explorations were undertaken in the early nineteen eighties and the late nineteen nineties respectively. More systematic and detailed studies on the caves and karst of Haiti were initiated in 2007 and some of the work is described in this presentation. The results so far show that a complex interplay of geology, geomorphology and speleogenetic processes have shaped and often reshaped the physical expressions of cave and karst development on Haiti.