asfs

 

Submission to the Minister for Environment by the
Australian Speleological Federation (Inc)
on the Mt Etna Caves National Park Draft Management Plan 1998

Prepared by:- Rauleigh Webb


Summary of the Submission by the Australian Speleological Federation (Inc)
to the
Minister for Environment regarding the Mt Etna Caves National Park Draft Management Plan 1998

  • The Federation cannot endorse the 1998 draft management plan and calls upon the Minister for Environment to request the drafting of a new comprehensive management plan for Mt Etna Caves National Park.
  • The Federation recommends that the plan provide mechanisms to develop individual cave management prescriptions, in conjunction with local speleological groups, for identified significant caves within the Mt Etna Caves National Park.
  • The Federation recommends that the plan should investigate the current karst hydrology of Mt Etna Caves National Park and ensure that the catchment of karst waters is protected.
  • The Federation requests that Bat Cleft tours continue to provide the general public with an excellent, safe, experience and that any required infrastructure does not adversely impact the karst or cave fauna of Mt Etna Caves National Park.
  • The Federation recommends that the plan should fully investigate the invertebrate cave fauna of the caves of Mt Etna Caves National Park, especially those that are dependent on the cave bat populations and that cave management prescriptions should be developed to ensure their long term conservation.
  • The Federation recommends that the Department of Environment should consider the impact of controlled burns on caves and karst in its fire management plan.

Submission by the Australian Speleological Federation (Inc)
To the Minister for Environment on the Mt Etna Caves National Park
Draft Management Plan 1998

Introduction

What is the ASF?

The Australian Speleological Federation (Inc) (ASF) comprises 27 corporate caving clubs and 20 associate caving clubs distributed throughout Australia. A council, headed by an executive directs it. As well, the Federation has a number of Commissions that oversee Federation activities between meetings of the council and the executive.

The Conservation Commission of the ASF has two Co-Convenors who are located across Australia to liaise with government departments, private landowners, or companies involved with the management of cave and karst resources.

The ASF has provided consulting services relating to cave and karst management to public and private cave managers throughout Australia. They have also assisted many cave managers in the identification of the cave resources with the karst of their reserve, National Park or private land holding. This involves activities such as surveying caves, tagging cave entrances, and performing inventories of features and cave life within the cave.

The Federation has also been involved with four of Australia's most important karst conservation issues. The Mt Etna limestone mine in Queensland (for over 10 years), the Yessabah limestone mine in New South Wales (Keir Vaughn-Taylor 1991), the Lune River Quarry in Tasmania and the Sellicks Hill Quarry Cave (Buswell 1994) blasting and subsequent inquiry. In three of these cases mining has halted at each site and significant attempts have been made to preform restoration (Gillieson 1995) to parts of the quarries. In the case of Sellicks Hill mining of the cave has been halted while the inquiry has been in progress.

MANAGEMENT OF KARST AREAS

Karst is a word that is used by geomorphologists to describe an area or region that comprises a soluble rock type such as limestone. From a management perspective the plan of management for a karst area should integrate all of the management objectives towards the conservation of the karst region. Many of the features with a karst region are highly visible such as pinnacles, dolines or caves. However it is the integrated management of the karst area that protects all of the karst features.

THE OVERALL MT ETNA CAVES NATIONAL PARK PLAN

In responding to your invitation to comment on the draft Mt Etna Caves National Park management plan the Federation can only express its deep concern regarding the extremely short time frame that has been allowed for public comment. This time period gives interested clubs, organisations and individuals no time at all to gather together available information relating to the park in order to comment on the draft plan. As these organisations are generally voluntary in nature your time frame will exclude extensive and constructive comment from most organisations.

The Federation must also indicate the appalling lack of information supplied in the draft management plan. The Federation has commented on many draft management plans relating to karst management in Australia but never one of only four pages in length. The majority of these plans, at least detail the flora and fauna of the park and provide proposals of how they are to be managed to minimise habitat damage. In general this level of detail results in draft plans of 90 pages or more. The four page draft management summary released for Mt Etna Caves National Park is very difficult to comment on without the relevant background detail that is clearly missing from the "draft management plan".

The plan does not appear to provide an overall management strategy for caves although it does have motherhood statements such as "cave systems are maintained as wilderness areas". Management plans for National Parks that specifically relate to caves generally provide a strategy to manage caves as individual resources and therefore develop classification systems or individual cave management prescriptions to ensure the conservation of the features of each cave. These management systems usually require input from local speleological groups, as the members of these groups generally have first hand knowledge relating to individual cave environments. This type of cave management strategy is highly recommended for Mt Etna Caves National Park.

The draft plan contained no references and hence the source and detail that led to the proposed management strategies are unclear.

The IUCN (Watson et al) has developed a set of guidelines to assist karst managers with specialised knowledge relating to karst systems. Some of the guidelines are reproduced here to indicate the emphasis that are placed on karst hydrology and catchment management which are poorly covered in the draft Mt Etna Caves National Park Management Plan

Some IUCN Guidelines

2. The integrity of any karst system depends upon an interactive relationship between land, water and air. Any interference with this relationship is likely to have undesirable impacts, and should be subjected to thorough environmental assessment.

3. Land managers should identify the total catchment area of any karst lands, and be sensitive to the potential impact of any activities within the catchment, even if not on the karst itself.

4. Destructive actions in karst, such as quarrying or dam construction, should be located so as to minimise conflict with other resource or intrinsic values.

5. Pollution of groundwater poses special problems in karst and should always be minimised and monitored. This monitoring should be event-based rather than at merely regular intervals, as it is during storms and floods that most pollutants are transported through the karst system.

  1. All other human uses of karst areas should be planned to minimise undesirable impacts, and monitored in order to provide information for future decision-making.

11. Where possible, a protected area should include the total catchment area of the karst.

These IUCN guidelines clearly indicate that the hydrology of karst regions is vital to their integrity. The current hydrology of Mt Etna Caves National Park is not mentioned in the draft management plan and a heading without recommendations covers the catchment protection and management section of the plan.

The Federation cannot endorse the 1998 draft management plan and calls upon the Minister for the Environment to request the drafting of a new comprehensive management plan for Mt Etna Caves National Park.

Cave Fauna

The draft management plan recommends animal surveys be conducted to compile comprehensive data for park species. It does not provide for any management strategies to ensure the conservation of cave fauna except for the exclusion of cavers and visitors during known sensitive periods. Visitors are likely to have impacts on cave fauna during every cave visit and a management strategy to conserve cave fauna is required. Many others factors such as pollution, alterations to soil, or the movement of water and air can impact cave fauna as well as human visitors and require consideration with a management plan.

Considerable research has already been undertaken on the bat species that inhabit or use the caves at Mt Etna Caves National Park. However this work needs to be continued and expanded to encompass the entire invertebrate fauna, particularly those species that are dependent on the bat populations.

The Bat Cleft tours are of critical importance to the education and interpretation of the importance of Mt Etna Caves National Park to the general public. Care should be taken to ensure that these tours continue to convey the conservation message of Mt Etna Caves National Park and educate the general public on the significance of Bat Cleft and other sites within the park. The draft Mt Etna Caves National Park management plan indicates that these tours are being modified to ensure visitor safety. It is vital that the quality of the tour is not compromised in this process and that any infrastructure that is put in place does not impact on the cave fauna. Clearly visitor safety has a very high priority but it is hoped that these suggestions may also be taken into account if infrastructure is to be constructed to increase visitor safety.

Permit Systems

Hamilton-Smith 1983 suggests that for a permit system to be justified the following four preconditions should exist.

  1. A genuine need to reduce and/or place limits upon the use of a resource
  2. An adequate level of on-site surveillance to ensure the effectiveness of the system
  3. Other methods, such as voluntary registration, user education, etc are inadequate to achieve management objectives and
  4. A permit system can be designed in a way which will meet defined management objectives.

In the case of Mt Etna Caves National Park a blanket permit system, especially one that requires a Special Activities Permit, is unlikely to produce a system that ensures the best management strategy for the park.

The Mt Etna Caves National Park draft management plan of April 1993 provided a system of access to caves that vetted cavers requesting access via the Central Queensland Speleological Society (CQSS). Such a system at least ensures that cave visitors are known to have a reasonable level of caving competence before entering caves in the park. The current plan recommends that a set of guidelines is developed to determine if a permit is issued to cavers. The final plan should contain more detail of how the guidelines are to be developed. The Federation recommends that these guidelines are developed with the assistance of members of speleological groups and/or members of the Australasian Cave and Karst Management Association (ACMKA) who have expertise in the development of cave access guidelines.

The 1993 Draft Management Plan

It is unclear if this 1998 draft management plan is based on the 1993 management plan, which contains much more detail than the present plan. The 1993 draft management plan is mentioned under the heading of Plan Implementation and monitoring but it is unclear if it is the 1998 draft plan or the 1993 draft plan that is to be used for implementation.

This should be fully qualified during the preparation of a new detailed draft management plan for Mt Etna Caves National Park.

Fire management

No details of the Fire Management plan were included in the draft Mt Etna Caves National Park management plan however prescribed burns within the park were mentioned. Fire Management plans on karst landscapes do not generally consider the impact of fires on caves and karst features.

One of the major impacts that can occur on caves and karst features is fire. The likely impacts of fire are:-

  • the leaching of carbon deposits into caves
  • the impacts of smoke and ash on secondary cave deposits and cave fauna
  • the degradation of cave entrances through denudation followed by rainfall
  • the spalling of limestone throughout the karst (Holland, 1993)
  • fracture and collapse due to heating (McGowan, 1990)

Therefore the Federation recommends that the Department of Environment should consider the impact of controlled burns on caves and karst in its fire management plan. Burn prescriptions may require alteration to back burn around sensitive sites or to completely avoid burns in certain areas.

Conclusion

The 1998 draft Mt Etna Caves National Park management plan does not contain enough detail to make informed constructive comment regarding the proposed management proposals for the park.

The Federation strongly recommends that a more detailed draft management plan be written with adequate time for public comment. The employment of experienced cave management consultants to assist with this process is highly recommended.

References

Buswell. C. (1994) Sellicks Hill Quarry Cave. Australian Caver 136: 18-23.

Gillieson. D. (1995). Rehabilitation of the Lune River Quarry, Tasmanian Wilderness World Heritage Area, Australia. Australasian Cave and Karst Management Association Journal. 19: 4-10.

Hamilton-Smith, E.,1983 Permits as a Visitor Control Method, In Hamilton-Smith, E., (ed.) Proceedings of the Fifth Australian Conference on Cave Tourism and Management, Lakes Entrance, pp 31-35

Holland, E. (1993). The Effects of Fire on Soluble Rock Landscapes. Proceedings of the Tenth Australasian Conference on Cave and Karst Management, Rockhampton, Queensland. pp20-23.

McGowan, T. (1990). Fire and The Cave. The Western Caver 30(1): 37-39

Vaughn-Taylor. K. (1991). What happened at Yessabah. Pp 108-113 in S. Brooks (ed.) Cave Leeuwin - Proceedings of the 18th Biennial Conference of the Australian Speleological Federation Inc., Margaret River, Western Australia. 30 December 1990 - 5 January 1991. Australian Speleological Federation, Broadway, New South Wales.

Watson, John, Hamilton-Smith, Elery, Gillieson, David, and Kiernan, Kevin (Eds.), 1997. Guidelines for Cave and Karst Protection, IUCN, Gland, Switzerland and Cambridge, UK. 63pp.

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Summary of the Submission by the
Australian Speleological Federation (Inc)
on the Proposed Limestone Mine,
Quicklime Plant and Shiploading Facility Exmouth, WA

 

The Federation suggests that the environmental impacts at the proposed site are likely to be considerable and that an alternative site should be selected at the nearby Rough Range.

The Federation considers that a plan of action should be established for those instances where caves are intersected during mining activities. This plan should ensure that the resources of the intersected cave are fully qualified so that a qualitative decision whether to proceed can be made before mining of the cave commences.

The Federation recommends that a comprehensive quarry rehabilitation plan is produced prior to the granting of any mining approval.

 

 


Submission by the
Australian Speleological Federation (Inc)
on the Proposed Limestone Mine,
Quicklime Plant and Shiploading Facility Exmouth, WA

INTRODUCTION

The North West Cape peninsula is formed in Tertiary limestones. A coastal plain fringes Cape Range which is 311 m high, 16km wide, anticline of Miocene. The Trealla Limestone and most of the Quaternary deposits have been eroded off the top of the sequence, exposing the older Tulki Limestone and Mandu Limestone. The coastal plains consist predominantly of the shallow marine and aeolian Pleistocene Bundera Calcarinite.

This geomorphological description of Cape Range can be combined with the aesthetic one which shows the Range to be a beautiful series of colourful gorges and hills with intriguing limestone sculptures frequenting the surface limestone. Its visual tourist potential has barely been touched.

Beneath the surface Cape Range has produced 547 cave features with many more to be discovered as cavers more extensively explore the range.

 

WHAT IS THE ASF?

The Australian Speleological Federation (Inc) (ASF) comprises 27 corporate caving clubs and 20 associate caving clubs distributed throughout Australia. It is directed by a council headed by an executive. As well, the Federation has a number of Commissions that oversee Federation activities between meetings of the council and the executive.

The Conservation Commission of the ASF has four Co-Convenors who are strategically located across Australia to liaise with government departments, private land owners, or companies involved with the management of cave and limestone resources.

The ASF has provided consulting services relating to cave and limestone management to public and private cave managers throughout Australia. They have also assisted many cave managers in the identification of the cave resources with the limestone of their reserve, National Park or private land holding. This involves activities such as surveying caves, tagging cave entrances, or performing inventories of features within the cave.

The Federation has also been involved with four of Australia's most important karst conservation issues. The Mt Enta limestone mine in Queensland (for over 10 years), the Yessabah limestone mine in New South Wales (Keir Vaughn-Taylor 1991), the Lune River Quarry in Tasmania and the Sellicks Hill Quarry Cave (Buswell 1994) blasting and subsequent inquiry. In three of these cases mining has halted at each site and significant attempts have been made to preform restoration to parts of the quarries. In the case of Sellicks Hill mining of the cave has been halted while the inquiry has been in progress.

WHY IS CAPE RANGE SO IMPORTANT?

Besides its obvious aesthetic qualities the Cape has provided a wealth of information regarding Australia's past. The fossil records, the flora, the geology and the above ground and below ground fauna have all contributed to our extensive and increasing knowledge of our past.

The cave animals of Cape Range have only been studied extensively over the last decade(Grey 1989, Harvey 1988, Harvey 1991, Humphreys et al 1989, Humphreys 1993, Humphreys 1994). These studies by Museum staff in conjunction with members of ASF caving groups throughout Australia have shed new light on our links with Gondwanaland. A recent discovery in a water filled cave at Cape Range has been compared to finding a living dinosaur! This small aquatic animal has been living on earth since the time of the dinosaurs and was truly an exciting discovery.

 

LIMESTONE MINING AT CAPE RANGE

At present only a small quarrying operation for the extraction of limestone occurs on the Cape Range peninsula. However there is a very large temporary limestone mining lease (TR5980H) covering a significant area of Cape Range National Park and the pastoral lease of John LeFroy.

 

The Issues

Alternative Site at Rough Range.

The Federation believes that Whitecrest Enterprises has acted with considerable environmental concern in placing the proposed development outside of the current Cape Range National Park and its proposed extensions. However the Federation believes that the selected site also has the potential to:-

  • encounter new caves in the mining process
  • pollute the water table
  • impact rare and endangered fauna

The Public Environmental Review document (PER) indicates that the Exmouth limestone resource is unique in Western Australia, being of a very high grade (> 97% CaCO3). However no comparative figures with other limestone deposits throughout Western Australia are provided. In particular the quality of the limestone from Rough Range to the south of Exmouth is not included in the PER.

It is the opinion of the ASF that the proposed limestone mining activity should be located at the nearby Rough Range which has shown good results of high quality limestone from test drilling.

To date no caves have been discovered on the Rough Range despite a number of visits to the range by speleologists. This area contains significant limestone resources that could be exploited without the need to quarry a known highly cavernous karst such as the Cape Range.

It is clear that the cost of the final product would be increased due to the extra transportation costs that would be incurred. However this increased cost must be evaluated with the following advantages taken into consideration:-

  • that the integrity of the Cape Range karst would be maintained
  • the significant potential for damage to the water table would be eliminated
  • the significant potential impact on cave fauna would be eliminated
  • the visual integrity of the vista from the National Park would be maintained
  • the environmental sensitivity of WA mining companies could be conveyed to international visitors
  • the potential destruction of caves would be greatly reduced

If the cost of production is found to be uneconomic due to this increased transportation costs then other alternative sites should be examined.

 

Major potential environmental impact

Some of the major environmental concerns of the Federation are:-

  • The leaching of water used at the site into the water table
  • The impact of water, carrying high sediment levels, on cave fauna and caves
  • The Run-off of water into caves/cracks in the quarry.
  • The potential pollution of the water table by blasting residues and spillage's.
  • The potential destruction of unknown caves that do occur on the site

Water Usage

The proposed use of 55 m3 of water per day is a very low figure given the requirements of keeping dust levels low at the site and on the haulage road. Furthermore whatever water is used for this purpose will find its way into the groundwater carrying a quantity of the dust that has been suppressed. Such material will have detrimental effects on any terrestrial or subaquatic fauna is caves/cavities or in the water table beneath the proposed site.

 

Surface Water

The PER also indicates that extreme rainfall events do occur during cyclonic conditions. It is during these periods of severe rainfall that water will run-off the benches of the quarry into cracks and fissures carrying large quantities of dust and sediment into the underlying water table and/or caves.

Such heavy rainfall events in limestone quarries have already been shown to have dramatic impacts on cave fauna in underlying cave systems (Eberhard 1990 and 1992).

 

Pollution

The residues resulting from the blasting process are very likely to be carried into the water table and caves following the major rainfall events described above. This pollution is likely to have a significant impact on cave fauna as it will introduce a considerable level of foreign material to the cave systems and water table.

It has been shown that the terrestrial cave fauna are dependent for their energy primarily by the influx of organic matter washed into caves by intermittent run-off associated with heavy rain (Humphreys 1991). If the major energy input to the cave systems is accompanied by a considerable number of pollutants it is likely to have a major impact on the cave fauna.

Caves beneath the Proposed Site

At present no known caves, currently open to the surface, occur in the proposed Mining Lease M08/145. However it is highly likely that caves do occur within the mining lease. Curl (1966) indicates that in any highly cavernous karst, such as Cape Range, that the majority of cavities do not have an entrance that provides physical access by human beings to the caves below. Hence it is VERY likely (almost certain) that caves will be opened during the mining practise. This is further confirmed by the PER which indicated that cavities of between 0.2 to 0.6m in height were intersected at about 24-40m depth only 500m east of the proposed tenement. These passage heights are very common for horizontal cave development at Cape Range (e.g. Wanderers Delight 6km+ of surveyed passage with the majority at crawling height) and an extensive network of passages beneath the proposed tenement is very likely.

No management strategies are included in the PER to deal with the intersection of a cave passage. If the destruction of caves intersected during the mining process is to take place then the Federation requests that at least some appraisal of the cave should be undertaken prior to the mining of cave. In the case of the Sellicks Hill Quarry cave a very significant cave (by South Australian standards) was severely damaged by blasting before a complete appraisal could be made. This action by the mining company led to court action and parliamentary enquires which could have been avoided if standard procedures of full and proper appraisal were in place when new caves are intersected during the mining process.

 

Procedures to assess caves intersected during the mining process should be clearly detailed prior to the granting of a mining licence in any karst area.

These procedures should include the ability to conduct fauna surveys, cave inventories, surveys, photographic recording etc. These procedures should be undertaken depending on the extent and nature of the cave while taking into account the likely disruption to the mining process.

 

Visual Impact

Several references are made in the PER to the lack of visual impact because the proposed quarry would not been seen from the Exmouth townsite or from Murat Road. However the visual impact will be very high for tourists travelling the Shothole Canyon Road into the Cape Range National Park. This impact should be carefully considered as it will have a long term impact on the very important tourism industry.

 

Quarry Rehabilitation

Following the closure of the Lune River Quarry at Ida Bay in Tasmania considerable monies were spent on the attempted rehabilitation of the quarry site. No matter where the proposed Exmouth quarry is situated a rehabilitation plan, using the work conducted at Lune River (Gillieson 1995) as a guideline, should be developed. The rehabilitation plan outlined in the PER is considered inadequate.

 

REFERENCES

Buswell. C. (1994) Sellicks Hill Quarry Cave. Australian Caver 136: 18-23.

Curl, R.L. (1966). Caves as a measure of karst. J. Geol. 74 (6) :798-830.

Eberhard. S. (1990) The Cave Fauna at Ida Bay in Tasmania and the Effects of Quarry Operations, unpublished report to the Department of Parks, Wildlife and Heritage, Tasmania.

Eberhard. S. (1992) The effect of stream sedimentation on population densities of Hydobid molluscs in caves., Report to World Heritage Planning Team. Department of Parks, Wildlife & Heritage, Tasmania, 8pp.

Eberhard. S. (1995) The Cave Fauna at Ida Bay in Tasmania and the Effects of Quarry Operations, Proceedings of the 11th Conference of the Australasian Cave and Karst Management Association, Tasmania May 1995, in press.

Gillieson. D. (1995). Rehabilitation of the Lune River Quarry, Tasmanian Wilderness World Heritage Area, Australia. Australasian Cave and Karst Management Association Journal. 19: 4-10.

Grey, M.R. (1989). Cavernicolous spiders (Arancae) [sic] from Undara, Queensland and Cape Range, Western Australia. Helictite 27: 87-89

Harvey, M.S. (1988). A new troglobitic schizomid from Cape Range, Western Australia (Chelicerata:Schizomida). Records of the Western Australian Museum 14: 15-20.

Harvey, M.S. (1991). The cavernicolous pseudoscorpions (Chelicerata: Pseudoscorpionida) of Cape Range, Western Australia. Records of the Western Australian Museum 15: 487-502.

Humphreys, W.F. 1993. The significance of the subterranean fauna in biogeographical reconstruction: examples from Cape Range peninsula, Western Australia. In Humphreys W.F. (Ed) The Biogeography of Cape Range, Western Australia. Records of the Western Australian Museum 45: 165- 192.

Humphreys, W.F., Adams, M. and Vine, B. (1989). The biology of Schizomus vinei (Chelicerata:Schizomida) in the caves of Cape Range, Western Australia. Journal of Zoology, London. 217: 177-201

Humphreys, W.F. (1991). Biological research into the Cape Range karst area, North West Cape peninsula, Western Australia. Pp 6-14 in S. Brooks (ed.) Cave Leeuwin - Proceedings of the 18th Biennial Conference of the Australian Speleological Federation Inc., Margaret River, Western Australia. 30 December 1990 - 5 January 1991. Australian Speleological Federation, Broadway, New South Wales.

Humphreys, W.F. (1993). The significance of the subterranean fauna in biogeographical reconstruction: examples from Cape Range peninsula, Western Australia. In Humphreys W.F. (Ed) The Biogeography of Cape Range, Western Australia. Records of the Western Australian Museum 45: 165- 192.

Humphreys, W.F. (1994). The subterranean fauna of the Cape Range coastal plain, northwestern Australia. Unpublished report to the Australian Heritage Commission and the Western Australian Heritage Committee. 40pp

Vaughn-Taylor. K. (1991). What happened at Yessabah. Pp 108-113 in S. Brooks (ed.) Cave Leeuwin - Proceedings of the 18th Biennial Conference of the Australian Speleological Federation Inc., Margaret River, Western Australia. 30 December 1990 - 5 January 1991. Australian Speleological Federation, Broadway, New South Wales.

 

asfsSummary of the Submission by the
Australian Speleological Federation (Inc) to the
Department of Environmental Protection
regarding the Clearing of Land
on Victoria Location 10598
Cockleshell Gully Road, Jurien (880)

Prepared by:- Rauleigh Webb

The Federation proposes that the Environmental Protection Authority recommends that a comprehensive study of the hydrology of this area is undertaken prior to any land clearing.

The Federation recommends that further investigation be undertaken of the aquatic fauna of Old River Cave prior to any land clearance.


  

Submission by the
Australian Speleological Federation (Inc)
on the Clearing of Land
on Victoria Location 10598
Cockleshell Gully Road, Jurien (880)

INTRODUCTION WHAT IS THE ASF?

The Australian Speleological Federation (Inc) (ASF) comprises 27 corporate caving clubs and 20 associate caving clubs distributed throughout Australia. It is directed by a council headed by an executive. As well, the Federation has a number of Commissions that oversee Federation activities between meetings of the council and the executive.

The Conservation Commission of the ASF has four Co-Convenors who are strategically located across Australia to liaise with government departments, private land owners, or companies involved with the management of cave and karst resources.

The ASF has provided consulting services relating to cave and karst management to public and private cave managers throughout Australia. They have also assisted many cave managers in the identification of the cave resources with the karst of their reserve, National Park or private land holding. This involves activities such as surveying caves, tagging cave entrances, performing inventories of features and cave life within the cave.

The Federation has also been involved with four of Australia's most important karst conservation issues. The Mt Enta limestone mine in Queensland (for over 10 years), the Yessabah limestone mine in New South Wales (Keir Vaughn-Taylor 1991), the Lune River Quarry in Tasmania and the Sellicks Hill Quarry Cave (Buswell 1994) blasting and subsequent inquiry. In three of these cases mining has halted at each site and significant attempts have been made to preform restoration (Gillieson 1995) to parts of the quarries. In the case of Sellicks Hill mining of the cave has been halted while the inquiry has been in progress.

MANAGEMENT OF KARST AREAS

Karst is a word that is used by geomorphologists to describe an area or region that comprises a soluble rock type such as limestone. From a management perspective the plan of management for a karst area should integrate all of the management objectives towards the conservation of the karst region. Many of the features with a karst region are highly visible such as pinnacles, dolines or caves. However it is the integrated management of the karst area that protects all of the karst features.

 

MAJOR POTENTIAL ENVIRONMENTAL IMPACTS

The major environmental concerns of the Federation are:-

  • The unknown effects of the clearing on the hydrology of Old River Cave.
  • The unknown effects on the aquatic cave fauna of Old River Cave

It is anticipated that the clearing of 873ha of land will have a MAJOR impact on the ground water table. The Federation considers that this impact is likely to have a considerable effect on all of the cave systems developed at the water table. At present only Old River Cave (a 2km long cave system) is known to contain an active stream passage. However it is likely that considerably more cave is present but not accessable to humans.

 

HYDROLOGY

During 1995 a number of eminent Australia karst management experts and speleologists drafted a set of guidelines for Cave and Karst Protection for the IUCN (Gillieson et al 1995). This set of guidelines highlights the sensitivity of karst regions and their need for specialised management.

Some of the guidelines relating to the hydrology of karst systems from the IUCN draft are enunciated here (within italicised boxes - followed by guidelines) to emphasise what the Federation considers are aspects of the CER that have not been adequately addressed.

 

Caves and karst are amongst the most vulnerable of landforms, and are often subject to degradation as a result of phenomena or events which occur at a considerable distance. Their effective protection and management therefore requires consideration and action at both regional and local levels.

 

Guidelines

2. The integrity of any karst system depends upon an interactive relationship between land and water. Any interference with this relationship is likely to have undesirable impacts, and should be subjected to thorough environmental assessment.

3. Land managers should identify the total catchment area of any karst lands, and be sensitive to the potential impact of any activities within the catchment, even if not on the karst itself.

4. Destructive actions in karst, such as quarrying or dam construction, should be located so as to minimise conflict with other resource values.

5. Pollution of groundwater poses special problems in karst and should always be minimised.

6. All other human uses of karst areas should be planned to minimise undesirable impacts, and monitored in order to inform future decision-making.

These IUCN guidelines clearly indicate that the hydrology of karst regions are vital to their integrity. The catchment of the water that flows through Old River Cave cannot be delinieated. However it is clear due to the direction of the water flow in the cave (westerly) that the inflow for the system lies to the east of DCNP.

If the hydrology is examined to the east of DCNP the potential inflows of water to Old River Cave are indicated in Figure 1 as two elipsoids. The wetlands to the south of the proposed land clearance have been examined by Semeniuk & Semeniuk, 1994. These wetlands occur in Bassendean Dunes and are less likely to be related to the waters that are forming the cave systems (southern elipsoid). However they are significant wetlands as indicated by Semeniuk & Semeniuk 1994 and should be conserved. The northern water flow (northern elipsoid) is more likely to contribute to the karst waters. This water flow does not appear on the documentation in the CER but is obvious on the public map portion shown in Figure 1.

jurienl 
Figure 1 - Portion of Lesueur and Pt Green Head Map

It flows through the area proposed for clearing and sinks in the southern block 10599, probably into a sandy inflow or soak. This water flow is likely to be the major inflow of water into the DCNP karst which has formed and continues to form Old River Cave and associated caves and karst features.

Land clearance of block 10598 is certain to allow greater quantities of water to enter the karst aquifers. A rise in water levels is likely to be significant with an unknown impact on the cave. The personal communication indicated in the CER is not sufficient documentation to ensure that the land clearance will not effect the cave systems of DCNP.

One example of research done on the impacts of altering surface conditions is given by Harmon (1977) who has shown that karst processes can be significantly modified by short term changes to plant/soil/water relationships. This reseach has admittedly been conducted a totally foreign karst however similar research is not available for the karsts of the South-West of Western Australia.

The Federation proposes that the Environmental Protection Authority recommends that a comprehensive study of the hydrology of this area is undertaken prior to any land clearing.

 

Cave Fauna

Only a small number of trips have investigated the cave life of Old River Cave. However an amphipod, Austro chiltonia sp., was collected from the stream in Old River Cave. This specimen was identified by Brenton Knott from the University of Western Australia who indicated that it differed from other specimens of this specied collected from Yanchep. The Old River Cave specimens had no eye spots indicating that they may have had more time to evolve that those at Yanchep that still have eye stalks.

The likely impact of the clearing on the cave amphipods is unkown but the alteration of their habitat WILL impact this aquatic species.

Cave adapted spiders of the family Linyphiidae have also been found in the entrance chamber of Old River Cave. These spiders are not common cave dwellers.

One of the major impacts on karst aquifers and aquatic cave fana are the clearance of native vegetation. The Federation stongly oposes the proposed clearing and draws the Environmental Protection Authorities attention to the draft IUCN guidlines on Cave and Karst Protection which emphasises the need to minimise the impacts of adjacent land managers with the following quotation:-

 

2. Encourage nearby land managers to minimise their impacts on the surface and groundwater quality and quantity.

The Federation recommends that further investigation be undertaken of the aquatic fauna of Old River Cave prior to any land clearance.

REFERENCES

Buswell. C. (1994) Sellicks Hill Quarry Cave. Australian Caver 136: 18-23.

Gillieson. D. (1995). Rehabilitation of the Lune River Quarry, Tasmanian Wilderness World Heritage Area, Australia. Australasian Cave and Karst Management Association Journal. 19: 4-10.

Gillieson, D, Hamilton-Smith, E. and Watson, J.R.. (1995). Draft Guidelines for Cave and Karst Protection, IUCN Commission on National Parks and Protected Areas, Australia.

Harmon, R.S. (1977). An isotopic study of ground water seepage in the central Kentucky karst. Water Resources Res. 15(2): 476-480.

Semeniuk, V. and Semeniuk, C. (1994). Ecological Assessment and Evaluation of Wetlands in the System 5 Region. A report to the Australian Heritage Commission, Canberra. ACT.

Vaughn-Taylor. K. (1991). What happened at Yessabah. Pp 108-113 in S. Brooks (ed.) Cave Leeuwin - Proceedings of the 18th Biennial Conference of the Australian Speleological Federation Inc., Margaret River, Western Australia. 30 December 1990 - 5 January 1991. Australian Speleological Federation, Broadway, New South Wales.

The Summary of Cave and Karst Conservation and Management Issues in WA.

This year has been a busy one, however a number of outstanding issues have had little progress. The full report and "summary" from 2008 is still accurate and rather than repeating the issues for each region again, we refer the reader to the 2007 report for further information.

Of significant note, Western Australian speleologists hosted the ACKMA Conference (Margaret River region May 2009) and a number of papers on WA karst management issues were presented. In particular, there was a workshop on "Planning and Urbanization in Karst Lands" which was well attended by local planners and Government agency staff. Several post conference field trips were arranged, which allowed participants and ACKMA members to visit karst areas and consider conservation and management issues.

There has been communication with the Cape Conservation Group on involving their group in groundwater monitoring. There is concern about the growth around Exmouth & the allocated allowances for water abstraction. The project was inspired as part of the Conservation Council's launching of their Citizen Science initiative. The monitoring program could be an important local grass roots strategy to raise the issue of water sensitivities on the range & involve the local schools in monitoring the groundwater & the associated communities.

In June, a karst ‘ground-truthing’ of Nowergup Lot 1, 2350 Wanneroo Road was undertaken at a site proposed for limestone extraction, batching & block cutting. A submission was forwarded from both WASG & the ASF Conservation Commission, as part of the public comment phase objecting to the proposal as it stood. The proposal also received significant local objection & council has now recommended to the DPI that the application be rejected.

A private cave at Guilderton has been opened up for ease of access where it was found through a borehole intersection. The cave (Rosewood Cave) has been track marked & surveyed. The remedial work recommended on the cave has been undertaken by the landowner at their own expense. This included walling up the cave to help preserve the atmosphere & the installation of a door. Rehabilitation of the exterior is expected to follow with revegetation including perennial tree species for slope stabilisation. The land owner supports this preservation and has been working with speleologists.

Also of note conservation wise is the efforts of WASG Trip Leaders in cave rehabilitation works in Blackboy Hollow Cave and speleothem repairs at Yanchep (Crystal Cave). The speleothem repairs were from that vandalism that occurred a few years back now.

In June, contact was made by the Shire of Augusta Margaret River regarding a proposed timber plantation at Cowaramup – no issues were raised and no further action was required. In December

2008, a submission was made to the City of Wanneroo on the local biodiversity strategy and the draft loca environmental plan (2009-1014). In April, public comment was sought in relation to the planned mining expansion of land near a mining site.

Jay Anderson Rob Susac