Environmental control for determining human impact and permanent visitor capacity in a potential show cave before tourist use


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Publication Date

June 2003


Cave temperature monitoring was carried out in the Cueva del Agua de Iznalloz, Granada, Spain, a cave that has great tourist potential and which has been maintained under natural conditions for over 30 years. The cave temperature under natural conditions was used to identify possible anthropogenic influences, in order to distinguish these from the variations directly related to natural changes. In particular, the relative influence of external weather conditions, thermal modification caused by visitors and the subsequent thermal recovery of the cave were identified. In addition, controlled experiments investigated the effect of two large-scale visits (980 and 2088 visitors day−1) to the cave interior, before any tourist activities in the cave were undertaken. Correlation and spectral analyses of time series were used to determine the thermal behaviour of the cave over time. The effect of both mass visits on the air temperature in the interior of the cave was very rapid (2.5 min). The maximum perturbation of air temperature within the cave during the two experiments was after 30 and 70 min. The memory effect for temperature whilst the cave was open to the public was estimated to be 5–6 h, whilst the response to external meteorological changes exceeded one week. A permanent visitor capacity of 53 people ensures that the natural cave temperature can be regained within 4–5 h. The cave can only support small groups of visitors, not the massive visits characteristic of show caves.


Karst, Cave Managemen, Tenvironmental Impact, Spectral Analysis

Document Type



Environmental Conservation, Vol. 30, no. 2 (2003-06-01).