Comparing and refining karst disturbance index methods through application in an island karst setting


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September 2016


The interconnected nature of surface and subsurface karst environments allows easy disturbance to their aquifers and specialized ecosystems from anthropogenic impacts. The karst disturbance index is a holistic tool used to measure disturbance to karst environments and has been applied and refined through studies in Florida and Italy, among others. Through these applications, the karst disturbance index has evolved into two commonly used methods of application; yet, the karst disturbance index is still susceptible to evaluation and modification for application in other areas around the world. The geographically isolated and highly vulnerable municipality of Arecibo, Puerto Rico’s karst area provides an opportunity to test the usefulness and validity of the karst disturbance index in an island setting and to compare and further refine the application of the original and modified methods. This study found the both methods of karst disturbance index application resulted in high disturbance scores (Original Method 0.54 and Modified Method 0.69, respectively) and uncovered multiple considerations for the improvement of the karst disturbance index. An evaluation of multiple methods together in an island setting also resulted in the need for adding additional indicators, including Mogote Removal and Coastal Karst. Collectively, the results provide a holistic approach to using the karst disturbance index in an island karst setting and suggest a modified method by which scaling and weighting may compensate for the difference between the original and modified method scores and allow interested stakeholders to evaluate disturbance regardless of his or her level of expertise.


Surface Karst Environments, Subsurface Karst Environments, Florida, Italy, Arecibo, Puerto Rico, Mogote Removal, Coastal Karst

Document Type



Environmental Management, Vol. 58, no. 6 (2016-09-30).