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GROUNDWATER

ORGANIC MATTER

CAVES AND KARST

The world’s biggest source of freshwater is beneath your feet.

Groundwater is often referred to as a hidden resource, as it is not often seen and is hard to visualise.

We still know very little about this precious resource, particularly about how it may be affected by increasing pressure and a warming world.








Organic matter is everywhere, dissolved in all aquatic waters, and preserved in geological sediments, stalagmites and ice.

Measuring organic matter concentration and character requires analytical techniques  including mass spectroscopy, chromatography and optical analyses. 

Dissolved organic matter fluoresces, and this is one way to understand  organic carbon fluxes and function in water.

Biomolecules preserved in cave stalagmites can provide records of past climate and environments.

From groundwater flow to groundwater flow: why does groundwater fluoresce in ultraviolet light? (EGU blogs)


Delving deep into caves can teach us about climate past and present.

Have you ever enjoyed the cool refuge that an underground cave offers from a hot summer’s day? 

When descending into a cave, you may not only enjoy the calm climate, you may also admire the beauty of cave deposits such as stalagmites, stalactites and flowstones, known by cave researchers as speleothems.

​Some very old stalagmites hold climatic signatures of the very distant past, in some cases up to millions of years. They contain an archive of the past climate as long as their age, often predating global weather station records.






Andy Baker is a UNSW Sydney academic working in the research fields of cave research, past climate change, karst hydrogeology, groundwater and isotope geochemistry.

The Baker  Lab Group takes an interdisciplinary scientific approach, researching between the subject areas of Environmental Earth Science and Engineering, with foci in organic and inorganic geochemistry and surface and subsurface hydrology.