The Arbuckle Karst Conservancy / Research Institute (AKCRI) is an interdisciplinary non-profit science organization which focuses primarily on studies in the Arbuckle Mountains and associated uplift areas of south-central Oklahoma, as well as comparative studies in other karst and pseudokarst regions in and outside the United States. The AKCRI brings together an international team of scientists from the biological, environmental, and earth sciences to expand our understanding of the phenomena, resources, and ecosystems associated with karst so that these unique subjects may be preserved and protected for future generations.


Karst is a unique landscape which  is commonly characterized by rocky and weathered limestone outcrops in which subterranean drainage is common. Drainage occurs through features such as sinkholes, fissures, and caves as well as many smaller fractures and surface depressions which are typical of karst landscapes. Overtime, dissolution of the soluble host rock enlarges the aperture of partings and fractures which may develop into cave passages which help transport and store water in the subsurface. When enough water is stored in the subsurface and capable of yielding a sufficient volume to sustain a population of people through exploitation of water wells or spring capture, we call the formation an aquifer.

Karst aquifers are often extremely complex and movement of water in the subsurface can be rapid and unpredictable making it extremely challenging to understand. Karst aquifers contain unique ecosystems of organisms, some of which have evolved in isolation and in total darkness. These organisms are often used to determine the health of the aquifer. Below is a simplified diagram of a karst system displaying the basic characteristics of the unique limestone / relationship. 

   ABOVE: Simple diagram of a karst system.

More than 25 percent of the world's population either lives on or obtains its water from karst aquifers. In the United States, 20 percent of the land surface is karst and 40 percent of the groundwater used for drinking comes from karst aquifers. In south-central Oklahoma, the Arbuckle-Simpson aquifer provides the drinking water to approximately 40,000 people in cities such as Ada, Sulphur, Tishomingo, and Durant.



ABOVE: Introductory film produced by the AKC on the unique characteristics of karst and its significance to the Arbuckle-Simpson aquifer. AKC 2009.


Below are 2 maps showing the area in which we concentrate our efforts. Map 1 shows the Arbuckle-Simpson aquifer in relation to other aquifers in Oklahoma. Map 2 shows the Arbuckle-Simpson aquifer in relation to nearby cities and towns. (Maps courtesy of the OWRB).

MAP 1                                                                        MAP 2

NOTE: The AKCRI also engages in minor comparative studies outside the Arbuckle Mountains region.
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