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A Preliminary Discussion of Karst Inventory Systems and Principles (KISP) for British Columbia

Author(s) or contact(s): T.R. Stokes and P. Griffiths
Source: Research Branch
Subject: Landscape Ecology
Series: Working Paper
Other details:  Published 2000. Hardcopy is available.
 

Abstract

The need for a standardized karst inventory system has developed from issues related to the sound management of forested karst areas. Previous management practices focused on caves and individual karst features. Our basic aim in producing this document is to assess karst as a functional ecosystem, considering all its non-living physical and chemical attributes (e.g., distinct geological, geomorphological, and hydrological features) and its associated living flora and fauna.

The preliminary Karst Inventory Systems and Principles (KISP) document reviews the current status of karst inventory methodologies in British Columbia and proposes a set of standard methodologies for karst inventories at the reconnaissance (1:250 000 scale), planning (1:50 000 and 1:20 000 scales), and operational (1:10 000 and 1:5000 scales) levels. A methodology for karst ecosystem vulnerability assessment is also proposed, and is directly linked to the planning- and operational-level karst inventories.

The reconnaissance-level inventory is an office-based assessment that utilizes existing bedrock geological maps, known bedrock lithology data, and any available karst information. A series of criteria is developed at this level to rate geological units for their likelihood of containing karst-forming bedrock, the intensity of karst development, and the known presence of caves or major surface karst features.

The planning-level inventory utilizes a phased approach to assess karst units. Phase 1, or the upper-level planning, combines detailed office work and reconnaissance field work to check the surface boundaries of karst units and collect basic geological and geomorphological information (e.g., bedrock lithology, major folds and faults, large surface or hydrological karst features). Phase 2, a karst-modified terrain mapping methodology, is carried out on large and/or complex karst areas to stratify polygons with varying intensities of karst development. These polygons can then be rated using a vulnerability assessment methodology, and, in combination with information on proposed activities and adjacent resources (e.g., fish habitats), assist in forest management planning. Phase 3, regional dye tracing, should be used when it is apparent that significant karst hydro-logical features are present or when subsurface flow paths are not reliably inferred from existing information. Dye tracing assists in delineating recharge areas and in determining subsurface flow paths.

The operational-level inventory is carried out by detailed field work that locates, identifies, and classifies surface karst features (e.g., sinkholes) and cave entrances. Subsurface inspection and classification of caves systems are carried out in some cases. The operational inventory can lead to other specialized inventories; for example, karst fauna (e.g., bats), karst flora (e.g., calcophile plants), and subsurface resources (e.g., paleontological, archaeological). The operational inventory report can, in some cases, be used to provide recommendations for management prescriptions or mitigative measures (e.g., buffers along sinking streams).
The operational-level inventory is linked to the vulnerability assessment methodology, within which the four basic environmental states of the karst ecosystem (air, water, land, and biota) are qualitatively assessed. The highest rating obtained from the four environmental states is then used to provide an overall vulnerability rating. The operational vulnerability rating can be used in combination with details on proposed forest activities (e.g., harvesting or road construction) and adjacent resources (e.g., downstream fisheries) to carry out risk assessments for karst areas.

Further testing and discussion of the karst inventory and vulnerability methodologies is anticipated and warranted, particularly for the planning-level inventory and for the vulnerability assessment procedures.

Working Paper 51 - part 1 (1149 KB)

Working Paper 51 - part 2 (629 KB)

Working Paper 51 - part 3 (1177 KB)

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Updated July 24, 2015