Biodiversity of Karst Habitats (Culver et al, 2001). Click on the image to go to the map.
Karst habitats contain unique environments that promote a high degree of endemism (a species may only live in one sinkhole, spring or cave). This means that karst habitats are hotspots for sensitive and threatened and endangered species.
Karst formations such as caves, sinkholes, springs and seeps provide habitat for hundreds of sensitive species, including many threatened and endangered species. Cave habitats support an estimated 1353 troglobitic (cave-dwelling) species in the United States, composed of 425 aquatic species and 928 terrestrial species (Elliot, 2000). Tables from Elliot lists all the extinct, threatened and endangered, candidate, and species petitioned for listing that are associated with cave habitats in the United States. Among karst areas in the US, some have been identified as biodiversity hotspots. For instance, the Edwards Aquifer and the Ozarks Aquifer are among some of the most biodiverse karst areas in the US. Karst species often act as as indicators of water quality in these important groundwater aquifers, thus protection of these species may serve to protect future drinking water supplies.
Culver, D.C., Deharveng, L. Gibert, J. and I.D. Sasowsky (eds.), 2001. Mapping Subterranean Biodiversity. Karst Waters Institute Special Publication 6. West Virginia, Charlestown. 111 pgs.
Elliot, W.R. (2000). Conservation of the North American Cave and Karst Biota. Chap. 34, pp. 665-689inWilkens H., D.C. Culver, and W.F. Humphreys (eds.), Subterranean Ecosystems. Ecosystems of the World, 30. Elsevier, Amsterdam. xiv 791 pp.