Karst genesis of the Swabian Alb, south Germany, since the Pliocene

Thekla Abel, Matthias Hinderer, Martin Sauter


An integrated approach of geomorphological, speleological, climatological and stratigraphical analysis was applied in a selected study area in the Swabian Alb (south Germany) to determine the spatial and temporal development of deep karstification since the Pliocene. By correlating the field data derived from applying different analysis, four karstification levels could be identified and assigned to the regional landscape development. The oldest and highest level L IV represents only scattered relics of Late Tertiary karstification. Levels L II and L III are clearly determined by terraces and cave levels. They correspond to major stagnation phases of the regional base level of the river Danube and the pre-alpine glaciation in the Late and Middle Pleistocene. The lowest level L I evolved during the major glaciation of the Riss-period and is still active in the upper reaches but buried under younger deposits in the lower reaches of the area. The study points out the necessity of using different methods to characterise the evolution of karstification.


South-west Germany, Swabian Alb, Karst genesis, Karstification levels, Landscape evolution, Pliocene, Pleistocene

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