A Disturbance Index for Karst Environments

Philip Van Beynen
Kaya Townsend

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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.