IGCP 598 - Environmental change and sustainability in Karst Systems


The Second International Training Course on "Karst Hydrogeology and Karst Carbon Cycle Monitoring", organized by the International Research Centre on Karst (IRCK) in Guilin, China from November 29 to December 10, 2011;

17 course participants from 11 countries attended the course.

Karst landscape/aquifer systems cover some 15% of the Earth’s land surface and are estimated to supply drinking water to some 25% of the world’s population.  A critical scientific and development gap concerns the fact that the evolution and dynamics of these systems remain incompletely understood while they present serious challenges to human development with regard to water access and quality, agriculture, and landscape stability, especially in the face of climate change.  Four successful karst-related IGCP projects have been undertaken since 1990, and 2008 the UNESCO Category II “International Research Centre on Karst” was established.

Major initiatives proposed for the new Project are tied by the fact that present and future environmental change will impact, and past environmental change is recorded in, karst systems at a range of time scales from hours to millions of years.  Proposed topics of collaboration in research and education within karst systems include, for example:

  1. research to better understand how to protect key karst watersheds from changes in human land use that can catastrophically contaminate water supplies, guided both by hydrogeologic sophistication and participatory approaches that engage local, impacted communities;
  2. studies to clarify processes by and quantify rates at which geologic interactions with carbonate rocks influence carbon cycling and in turn climate change;
  3. better understanding methods for sustainable ecological and cultural resource protection within fragile karst systems spread across an awesome range of geologic, climatic and cultural landscapes and faced with a complex range of environmental challenges; and
  4. quantification of environmental records that wait to be analyzed and interpreted within water, sediments, speleothems, and cultural records over these same timescales. Communication among scientists across these specialties, but bound by common and overlapping interests and experiences cannot help but richly fertilize ideas and nuture opportunities for the widely diverse group of international scientists engaged in this work that include geologists, geochemists, biologists and ecologists, chemists and geographers. 

Specific objectives of the proposed Project include:

High quality, multi- and interdisciplinary basic and applied scientific research to advance the understanding of how environmental change over a variety of timescales impacts functions of karst systems, where appropriate to inform sound decision making;

Research into concepts associated with sustainability of karst systems, both with regard to human activities and health, and ecological protection. To support this the project has in place a strong program of academic capacity building;

Careful tracking of leveraging to quantify an example of how IGCP projects have engaged associated efforts that have added enormous financial, technical, and human resources. Enormous financial leveraging is perhaps the greatest single strength of the IGCP programme, but in many cases the specific results are anecdotal. In this project we will ask participants to as accurately as possible quantify and report amounts of non-IGCP funding that was brought to projects reported under the auspices of the programme.

While many important results have followed the previous four projects, and necessarily some of the interdisciplinary concerns of them shared certain themes in common with the new proposed project, its focus on the impacts of environmental change on karst systems and the enormous number of people who rely on them has become increasingly critical as understanding the rates and impacts of climate change (and the impacts themselves) enter a completely new paradigm, and as pressure on karst water resources from population growth rapidly accelerates.

  • Meeting 21 November - 2 December 2011 - Guilin (China): With the co-sponsorhip of the Institute of Karst Geology, CAGS, and IGCP/SIDA 598, International Research Center on Karst (IRCK) will organize the third International Training Course on Karst Hydrogeological Investigation Technology and Methodology in Guilin, China. The programme will cover 2 topics: Functions and research methodology of karst dynamic system andd Karst hydrogeology and environmental geological investigation and monitoring. For further information please contact: Ms Lu Qian
  • Meeting 26-29 June 2011 - University of Birmingham (UK): 6th International Conference: Climate Change - The Karst Record. The conference theme was focused on the use of speleothems and other deposits from caves to interpret the climates and environments of the past, including work on modern processes that can guide interpretation of the palaeo-archives.
  • Meeting 4-10 June 2011 - Bowling Green, Kentucky (USA): The UNESCO/IUGS IGCP/SIDA Project 598, the Hoffman Environmental Research Institute, the National Cave and Karst Research Institute (NCKRI), and the International Association of Hydrogeologists (IAH) hosted the 2011 International Conference on Karst Hydrogeology and Ecosystems at Western Kentucky University in Bowling Green, Kentucky. With a location in the midst of one of the world's great karst landscapes, Western Kentucky University has a rich history of karst scientific research and has been pleased to host a series of international karst conferences over the last several decades including the 8th International Congress of Speleology in 1981 and joint conferences of international karst commissions in 1998, 2003, and 2007.
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