A Disturbance Index for Karst Environments


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Publication Date

June 2005


Karst environments, unique from other environments, require their own disturbance index. Karst resources are increasingly disturbed by a variety of processes related to social, physical, and economic factors. Recent studies have begun to qualify and quantify these disturbances, yet their focus has been limited to one or two factors such as biotic, geomorphic, or economic impacts. A more holistic approach, addressing economic, scientific, and cultural factors, is needed, to effectively assess the threats to karst areas. Currently, there is no efficient method to measure, compare, and contrast the disturbance of karst environments. We propose a hierarchal and standardized environmental disturbance index as a tool to measure regional impacts and highlight the areas of the karst system that require more protection or study. Addressed categories of disturbance include cultural, biotic, atmospheric, hydrological, and geomorphologic impacts. The need to identify and protect threatened cave and karst systems is gaining increased attention. Karst is a landscape typified by soluble rocks, such as limestone, gypsum, and dolomite, where solutional processes are dominant, forming sinkholes, depressions, caves, and enhancing underground drainage. Caves and karst resources are non-renewable (Gunn and others 2000) and are increasingly being disturbed by a variety of physical, social, and economic activities. Notable projects that have recently begun to describe and quantify disturbances include the now defunct Karst Waters Institute Top 10 list of Disturbed Karst Ecosystems (Mylroie and Tronvig 1998), the International Union for the Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources’ Guidelines for Cave and Karst Protection (Watson and others 1997), and a series of regional assessments of karst throughout the world (Day and Urich 2001; Kueny and Day 2002, Kueny and Day 1998; Day 1996; Urich and others 2001). While many articles address the conservation and protection of caves and karst, their focus has generally applie


Caves, Karst, Index, Human Impact, Environmental Indicators

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Environmental Management, Vol. 36, no. 1 (2005-06-09).