Integrated land and water-borne geophysical surveys shed light on the sudden drying of large karst lakes in southern Mexico

Bücker, Matthias; Flores Orozco, Adrián; Gallistl, Jakob; Steiner, Matthias; Aigner, Lukas; Hoppenbrock, Johannes; Glebe, Ruth; Morales Barrera, Wendy; Pita de la Paz, Carlos; García García, César Emilio; Razo Pérez, José Alberto; Buckel, Johannes; Hördt, Andreas; Schwalb, Antje; Pérez, Liseth

Karst water resources play an important role in drinking water supply but are highly vulnerable to even slight changes in climate. Thus, solid and spatially dense geological information is needed to model the response of karst hydrological systems to such changes. Additionally, environmental information archived in lake sediments can be used to understand past climate effects on karst water systems. In the present study, we carry out a multi-methodological geophysical survey to investigate the geological situation and sedimentary infill of two karst lakes (Metzabok and Tzibaná) of the Lacandon Forest in Chiapas, southern Mexico. Both lakes present large seasonal lake-level fluctuations and experienced an unusually sudden and strong lake-level decline in the first half of 2019, leaving Lake Metzabok (maximum depth inline-formula∼25inline-formulam) completely dry and Lake Tzibaná (depth inline-formula∼70inline-formulam) with a water level decreased by approx. 15 inline-formulam. Before this event, during a lake-level high stand in March 2018, we collected water-borne seismic data with a sub-bottom profiler (SBP) and transient electromagnetic (TEM) data with a newly developed floating single-loop configuration. In October 2019, after the sudden drainage event, we took advantage of this unique situation and carried out complementary measurements directly on the exposed lake floor of Lakes Metzabok and Tzibaná. During this second campaign, we collected time-domain induced polarization (TDIP) and seismic refraction tomography (SRT) data. By integrating the multi-methodological data set, we (1) identify 5–6 inline-formulam thick, likely undisturbed sediment sequences on the bottom of both lakes, which are suitable for future paleoenvironmental drilling campaigns, (2) develop a comprehensive geological model implying a strong interconnectivity between surface water and karst aquifer, and (3) evaluate the potential of the applied geophysical approach for the reconnaissance of the geological situation of karst lakes. This methodological evaluation reveals that under the given circumstances, (i) SBP and TDIP phase images consistently resolve the thickness of the fine-grained lacustrine sediments covering the lake floor, (ii) TEM and TDIP resistivity images consistently detect the upper limit of the limestone bedrock and the geometry of fluvial deposits of a river delta, and (iii) TDIP and SRT images suggest the existence of a layer that separates the lacustrine sediments from the limestone bedrock and consists of collapse debris mixed with lacustrine sediments. Our results show that the combination of seismic methods, which are most widely used for lake-bottom reconnaissance, with resistivity-based methods such as TEM and TDIP can significantly improve the interpretation by resolving geological units or bedrock heterogeneities, which are not visible from seismic data. Only the use of complementary methods provides sufficient information to develop comprehensive geological models of such complex karst environments

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Bücker, Matthias / Flores Orozco, Adrián / Gallistl, Jakob / et al: Integrated land and water-borne geophysical surveys shed light on the sudden drying of large karst lakes in southern Mexico. 2021. Copernicus Publications.

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