Karst Geo-hazards: Causal Factors and Management Issues


Mario Parise


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Acta Carsologica

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Karst terranes exhibit spectacular landforms that are often exploited as natural parks and show caves, and hosts very important natural resources. Further, karst terranes cover 20% of the Earth’s surface and provides 20−25% of high-quality groundwater for drinking water. The fragility of karst environments makes it highly vulnerable to a variety of different geological hazards (or geo-hazards). This is due to its peculiar geological and hydrological features such as sinkholes and caves. In particular, the strict connection between surface and subsurface features emphasizes the fragile nature of karst. The occurrence of geo-hazards in karst terranes greatly differs from other natural settings. Natural and man-induced subsidence and sinkholes, slope movements favored by karst conduits and caves, flash floods related to inability of the system to manage water from heavy rainstorms, and pollution caused directly or indirectly by human actions are the main types of geo-hazards typical of karst terranes. Although mostly related to natural processes, their occurrence and consequent damage to both the natural and anthropogenic environment are often caused or exacerbated by man. As a consequence, management of karst terranes cannot be enacted without taking into account the peculiar features and behavior of karst terranes and aquifers, and the delicate balance with the different types of geo-hazards that may occur. Specific management actions should, therefore, be pursued in this fragile environment, with the intention of safeguarding the natural resources, biota, and population.

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