Karst is a unique landscape that is characterized by caves, sinkholes, springs and disappearing streams. Approximately 20 percent of the United States is underlain by Karst and few Americans living in these special areas understand the geologic conditions and/or how to prevent environmental problems associated with karst regions.
Caves and karst resources include valuable groundwater supplies, endangered species, important archaeological deposits and unique and irreplaceable mineral formations. Lack of awareness of the karst topography in cave localities leads to a variety of human induced land use problems such as flooding, sinkhole collapse and groundwater contamination.
Thousands of caves in the U.S. have suffered significant damage to their mineral formations from vandalism and careless visitation. Some of the nation’s most extensive cave systems, including Mammoth Cave National Park, are impacted by groundwater pollution from development and urban sprawl. Numerous cave species have been included on the federal Endangered Species list, a testament not only to their rarity but to human impacts on their populations. Archaeological resources in caves have been decimated the world over.
Although millions of Americans live in karst areas and are affected by problems related to them, most Americans do not have a good understanding of these resources. Cave resources are “out-of-sight” and therefore, “out-of-mind.”
A large part of our mission is providing educational services to bridge the gap between what scientists know about karst regions and what the public needs to understand in order to adapt successfully to karst landscapes.