CAVE MONITORING PRIORITIES IN CENTRAL AMERICA AND THE CARIBBEAN
Michael Day, Susan Koenig - (31/1,2002)
Karstlands cover about 300,000 km2 (50%) of the land area of Central America and the Caribbean. The number of caves is probably tens of thousands. Cave monitoring is uncommon throughout Central America and the Caribbean, and is generally accorded a low priority by agencies responsible for environmental management and conservation. Exceptions occur only in some protected areas and in a few commercial caves. Fundamentally, it is not recognized generally that there is a need to monitor caves. Beyond that, monitoring is limited severely by paucity of funding, equipment and qualified personnel. Cave monitoring clearly is warranted, however, because cave environments are inherently fragile and because the karstlands are under increasing developmental pressures. In these contexts, selected inventorying and monitoring programs seem advisable in at least some of the more significant caves. Such monitoring programs might focus on physical environments, historic and prehistoric remains, faunal populations, resource extraction, water quality and human visitation. Equally importantly, surface karst environments need to be monitored too, because degradation at the surface will almost inevitably be mirrored by deterioration in underground conditions.