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University of Arkansas

Publication Date

January 2006


Applied Speleology


" Historically, many people dealing with caves and karst have tended to be guarded about sharing information. They have sought to protect their property, their resources, liability risk, and special interests by keeping details about karst (especially caves) secret. This has resulted in inconsistent, localized, and hard-to-access knowledge and data, in highly generalized large-scale maps of widely varying consistency and quality. Most importantly, secrecy has resulted in a general lack of understanding about the complexity, science, and fragile nature of many of these unique settings. Obviously, there are needs for individual cave locations to be restricted on a need-to-know basis, but the requirement to accurately characterize areas having potential to develop near-surface karst is becoming increasingly urgent as humans throughout the world expand their range and land-use practices that jeopardize rare and irreplaceable karst resources. Because of the lack of an accessible and comprehensive source of information on the global distribution of karst habitats and species, an effort to create an international karst database has been initiated by the University of Arkansas and The Nature Conservancy of Arkansas (TNC). The comprehensive database of karst distribution and biodiversity has been designated Karst Regions of the World (KROW). This compilation will serve as a Geographic Information Systems (GIS) dataset that includes published and unpublished data on the major aspects of karst and will be used to create large-scale maps delineating known and potential karst regions of the world. Delineation of karst areas within the database was based on the most current karst maps and references united by GIS manipulations. Data within the database includes geologic, hydrologic, speoleogenetic, biologic and ecologic information, as well as documentation citations. By combining dissimilar geodata from numerous sources and integrating them into a single Karst Regions of the World Database (KROWDB), which can be use to retrieve karst data and perform spatial analyses, a critical tool will be created for future karst management and conservation efforts. This framework will be available to karst stakeholders for initiating karst conservation and planning on a global scale and with the help of scientific community, the archive will be updated as new information is collected. One of the underlying motives for this project, and the impetus for involvement by The Nature Conservancy, is to advance the protection of karst species and habitats globally. Delineation of areas of environmental and ecological sensitivity can be achieved by blending detailed data described previously with maps of distribution of cave-limited and endangered and threatened species. The importance of characterizing, conserving, and protecting the karst areas and the species that live within them cannot be emphasized strongly enough, given the increasing population density of humans that reside on karst lands, and the ecosystems that rely on karst environments and karst water to sustain life. The proposed global karst GIS dataset will help fill this data gap and provide a starting point for future protection of karst habitats and species, and at the same time, will provide a valuable interactive set of tools for a broad range of needs for all karst stakeholders. " -- Author Open Access - Permission by Author(s) (2006) See Extended description for more information.

Subject: topical

Applied Speleology




Thesis / Dissertation; serial





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