Karst aquatic ecosystems of the Edwards Plateau region of central Texas, USA: A consideration of their importance, threats to their existence, and efforts for their conservation

David E. Bowles
Thomas L. Arsuffi

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This paper discusses the karst aquatic ecosystems of the Edwards Plateau, Texas, including a synopsis of those systems that are threatened or endangered by anthropogenic disturbances. Thousands of springs issue from aquifers on the Edwards Plateau, including the largest springs in the state. The endemic and unique aquatic biota of the Edwards Plateau are presented, including taxa faced with extinction. Ninety‐one species and/or sub‐species are identified as being endemic to aquatic ecosystems of the Edwards Plateau. Threats to aquatic ecosystems are overpumping of aquifers associated with an expanding human population in the region, agricultural practices, urbanization and development, pollution, recreational activities, introductions of exotic species, and changes in regional and global climatic patterns. The means for possible protection and remediation of these threatened aquatic systems include public education on water conservation issues, development of water conservation plans, use and development of alternative sources of water, lawsuits, and land management and stewardship programmes.