Karst Regions of the World (KROW): Global Karst Datasets and Maps to Advance the Protection of Karst Species and Habitats Worldwide
Owing to the lack of a single accessible and comprehensive source of information on the global distribution of karst habitats and species, The Nature Conservancy and the University of Arkansas are collaborating on compiling a comprehensive database of karst distribution and biodiversity. This compilation will serve as the preliminary foundation for a digital global karst dataset which will be used to delineate (1) a worldwide map of karst regions, and (2) a geologic and biogeographic framework for initiating karst conservation and planning on a global scale. Rapid advancements and expanding technologies in both karst science and Geographic Information Systems (GIS) make the timing of this effort optimum. Multiple groups in multiple disciplines are actively working on developing regional and global karst maps, reflecting the growing perception that land use in karst settings is becoming a critical problem. Thus far, the efforts have not generated major redundancy, but the expanding activity suggests that duplication of effort is drawing near, and integration of data-set population and map generation requires communication and coordination to optimize the needs of all karst stakeholders. The importance of characterizing, conserving, and protecting the karst regions of the world cannot be emphasized strongly enough, given the increasing population density of humans that reside in these settings, and the ecosystems that rely on karst environments and karst water to sustain life. This paper summarizes a brief history of the problem, the rationale behind our specific effort, initial progress we have made thus far, and our perceived needs to draw the entire karst community into this long-term, ongoing effort.