Graduation Year


Document Type




Degree Granting Department


Major Professor

Philip van Beynen, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Robert Brinkmann, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Philip Reeder, Ph.D.


environmental indicators, human impact, tampa bay metropolitan area, anthropogenic change, pollution, sinkholes, caves


A hierarchical and standardized environmental disturbance index, specifically designed for karst landscapes, was created by van Beynen and Townsend (2005). To assess the applicability of the index and provide recommendations for its refinement, the index was applied in four west-central Florida counties and interviews were conducted with local and state officials, community planners, and land resource managers. The karst disturbance index consists of 30 indicators contained within five broad categories: geomorphology, hydrology, atmosphere, biota, and culture. Data was readily available for most environmental indicators used to construct the index. Overall, levels of disturbance vary between the counties due to the level of urbanization, with the highly populated Hillsborough and Pinellas Counties having higher degrees of disturbance than less developed Pasco and Hernando Counties. While this result may seem obvious, the measure of disturbance using many indicators provides benchmarks of levels of disturbance that can be reassessed with time and highlights those aspects of the environment most in need of attention. Several minor issues arose during the testing: the need for broader indicator descriptions that encompass a variety of scenarios, a new water quality indicator, obsolete sinkhole data, and a lack of data for biota indicators. The lack of data for certain indicators suggests where future research efforts can be directed.