Applying ecology for cave management in China and neighbouring countries


Tony Whitten


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Publication Date

April 2009


1.Caves are arguably the hottest of the biodiversity hotspots as measured by endemism andthreat, yet they receive very little attention or appropriate management. Some recent investigationsin China have found that up to 90% of the animals collected in caves are new to science, yetenvironmental assessments for development projects in karst areas rarely if ever give attention tothe cave fauna.2.The lack of light, and the cave-specific conditions of humidity, air flow and source of energy haveresulted in extreme adaptations among the animals living within them.3.There is no government agency or non-governmental organization (NGO) on conservationconcerned with caves in China or many other countries, and although there are caving expeditions,they concentrate on exploration rather than the cave fauna.4.Disturbance by limestone quarrying, visitors, tourism infrastructure, and changes in waterflow through, or from above, the cave can have devastating effects on the highly adapted andrange-restricted fauna.5.Some examples of World Bank-financed development projects which have led to cave conservationare given.6.Synthesis and applications. The cave biodiversity of China and neighbouring countries is worthyof conservation and there is a huge number of nationally endemic species, most of which are unknown.Destruction or damage to caves can cause entire communities of cave species to become extinct. Toaddress this problem, the disparate, taxon-limited specialists interested in cave fauna need to reachout to the cave exploration community, the major conservation NGOs, and the state and localconservation agencies. Those charged with the task of conserving biodiversity should give thoughtto how the current national protected area systems and processes manage – and fail – to address theneeds of the cave fauna, and look for the means to effect the necessary changes in management,based on the peculiar ecology of caves.


Karst, Cave Ecology, Cave Management, Cave Fauna, Conservation, Biodiversity, China, Offset, Hubei, Guangxi, World Bank