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In Lesson 2 you read how “significant” karst features are usually identified during karst field assessments. Lesson 3 provides you with more detailed information on significant karst features and how the higher values associated with these types of features can be protected.

How is the significance of a karst feature assessed?

Determining the significance of karst features is conducted during a karst field assessment.

Criteria for determining the significance of surface karst features:

  • Dimensional characteristics
  • Level of connectivity between the surface and subsurface
  • Hydrological characteristics
  • Geological, biological, scientific, archeological, historical, cultural and educational values
  • Recreational and commercial values
  • Rarity and abundance
  • Visual quality.

Criteria for determining the significance of caves:

  • Well-developed decorations
  • Significant hydrological, archaeological, paleontological or cultural values
  • Bat hibernacula or rare cave-dwelling organisms
  • Scientifically important climatological or geomorphological sediments
  • Significant recreational opportunities
  • Unique intrinsic values (e.g., large dimensions, unusual configuration, rare/uncommon location).
Who determines the significance of caves?

Since determining the significance of caves requires subsurface inspection and mapping, it should only be done by personnel with specialized knowledge, training and experience.

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What happens if a karst feature has not yet been identified and assessed for significance?

If the significance of a karst feature is unknown, or has not yet been determined, it is recommended that the feature be treated as significant until a determination can be made.

How can significant karst features be protected?

It is recommended that reserves be established for the following significant karst features:

  • Significant cave entrances
  • Above significant caves (depending on depth)
  • Significant surface karst features
  • Significant karst springs
  • Unique or unusual karst flora and fauna habitats.

The following best management practices are suggested within all karst reserves:

  • No roads or skid trails should be located within karst reserves
  • No trees should be felled within karst reserves except to remove safety hazards or reduce significant forest health risks. Where felling is required, consider the following:
    • Use partial cutting.
    • Fall away from karst features.
    • Leave felled timber on the ground to help provide coarse woody debris and an intact forest floor.
    • If felled timber must be removed (e.g., significant forest health concerns) avoid yarding over or through karst features.
  • Take measures to ensure that human wastes, petroleum products, herbicides, litter and other pollutants do not contaminate karst reserves by following proper storage and transport procedures.
Important Note

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