Karst groundwater in UNESCO protected areas: a global overview


John Gunn


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Hydrogeology Journal

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Recent studies have clarified the global distribution of carbonate and evaporite karst and global utilisation of karst waters. This study provides an initial assessment of the extent to which UNESCO protected area designations cover areas with karst (carbonate and evaporite), and hence the groundwaters that they contain. There are four UNESCO protected area designations: Biosphere Reserves (BR), Ramsar Sites (RS), UNESCO Global Geoparks (UGGp) and World Heritage Properties (WHP). Following analysis of data on the protected area websites, databases have been compiled listing sites in each category that contain, or are thought to contain, carbonate or evaporite karst. The total numbers are: 151 BR in 62 countries, total area 42,181,357 ha; 124 RS in 55 countries, total area 4,766,652 ha; 61 UGGp in 21 countries, total area 10,892,586 ha and 56 WHP in 35 countries, total area 43,478,128 ha. This list includes 32 protected areas with multiple designations and the area of overlap is estimated to be 14,684,072 ha, leaving 86,634,650 ha in 360 individual areas that may contain karst with groundwater. However, in most cases only part of each protected area is underlain by carbonate or evaporite rocks and, as the areas are sometimes reported as a core and sometimes as core+buffer, the total protected area will be less than the combined total area. There are 86 countries in which there is at least one UNESCO protected area with karst.

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