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The epikarst, which consists of highly weathered rock in the upper vadose zone of exposed karst systems, plays a critical role in determining the hydrologic and geochemical characteristics of recharge to an underlying karst aquifer. This study utilized time series (2007–2014) of hydrologic and geochemical data of drip water collected within James Cave, Virginia, to examine the influence of epikarst on the quantity and quality of recharge in a mature, doline-dominated karst terrain. Results show a strong seasonality of both hydrology and geochemistry of recharge, which has implications for management of karst aquifers in temperate climatic zones. First, recharge (discharge from the epikarst to the underlying aquifer) reaches a maximum between late winter and early spring, with the onset of the recharge season ranging from as early as December to as late as March during the study period. The timing and duration of the recharge season were found to be a function of precipitation in excess of evapotranspiration on a seasonal time scale. Secondly, seasonally variable residence times for water in the epikarst influence rock-water interaction and, hence, the geochemical characteristics of recharge. Overall, results highlight the strong and complex influence that the epikarst has on karst recharge, which requires long-term and high-resolution data sets to accurately understand and quantify.

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