Geostatistical spatiotemporal analysis of air temperature as an aid to delineating thermal stability zones in a potential show cave: Implications for environmental management


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Publication Date

December 2006


Air temperature in several galleries of the Covadura System (Sorbas Gypsum Karst, Almería) was measured at monthly intervals over a period of 1 year. The spatial temperature distribution for each month was modeled in a geostatistical framework. The mean trend of the air temperature and the difference between each experimental temperature measurement and this trend were calculated over space and time. Both the trend and residual component were characterized using a geostatistical space–time model. A large spatial trend of the air temperature was found due to the orientation of galleries within the cave system and as a function of the distance from the main cave entrance. Kriging was used for the spatial estimation of the time covariance of the residuals. This enabled the delimitation of the cave into three zones of varying environmental risk in the event of being opened to visits by the public, according to the degree of stability of air temperature over space and time. The influence of human presence on the spatial temperature distribution was assessed using data collected during a year (2000/2001) in pilot galleries opened to the public. An average visit corresponding to August was selected comprising 16 people over a period of 53 min. This average visit influenced the spatial temperature pattern at distances of more than 90 m from the cave entrance, according to the geostatistical model adopted. Within this zone the mean thermal increment generated by human presence was estimated to be 0.26 °C. The spatiotemporal mathematical model of the cave air temperature has been revealed as a useful tool for the environmental management of show caves.


Environmental Management, Tourist Cave, Residual Kriging, Space–Time Model, Karst

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Journal of Environmental Management, Vol. 81, no. 4 (2006-12-01).