Although chalk aquifers are not too often associated with conduit flow, they are highly productive groundwater systems and, like limestone aquifers, they can be vulnerable to contamination when exposed to land use activities. The Danish carbonate rocks are generally recognized to be highly fractured and covered by thick Quaternary sediments. Fissure flow is pronounced, occurring in the upper 50–100 m due to Pleistocene glaciations. According to recently published maps of the distribution of karst in Europe, Denmark has no karst. However, this study concludes that karstified chalk and limestone aquifers are an important source of freshwater in Denmark. Four national datasets on karst features, groundwater flow, groundwater chemistry, and fish ecological quality ratio (EQR) data now indicate more heterogeneous structures and preferential flow pathways in the chalk and limestone aquifers than had been conceptualized and modelled with a national water resources groundwater/surface-water model in the recent past. This study provides new qualitative evidence that rapid and preferential flow of water and agrochemicals from the surface through thinner parts of the Quaternary cover layers, sinkholes and solution-enlarged fractures may likely impact the vulnerability of chalk and limestone aquifers. Additionally, due to the preferential flow system, some gaining streams discharged by karstified chalk and limestone aquifers show increased fish EQR values when using observed river daily discharge data instead of simulated daily discharge.
- Carbonate rocks
- Fish ecological quality ratio
- Groundwater vulnerability
- Programme Area 2: Water Resources