cave ecosystems, Arkansas, biodiversity, groundwater monitoring
This is the fourth in a series of reports on the status of endangered biota and of environmental quality in Cave Springs Cave (CSC), Benton County, Arkansas (Brown et al., 1998; Graening and Brown, 1999, 2000), funded by the Arkansas Natural Heritage Commission (ANHC). As a result of these studies, Cave Springs Cave is now one of the most thoroughly studied cave ecosystems in Arkansas. This series of studies has spawned a renewed interest in cave ecosystems and their vulnerable condition. There are now many projects focusing upon the documentation of subterranean biodiversity and its protection. Partners include the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission, US National Park Service, US Forest Service, US Fish and Wildlife Service, Arkansas Department of Environmental Quality, The Nature Conservancy, and the Departments of Biological Sciences and Geosciences at the University of Arkansas, Fayetteville. Two studies are particularly germane to this Natural Area: Graening et al. (2001) compared the fauna, water and sediment quality at CSC to 63 other caves in the State; and Graening and Brown (in progress) are comparing the ecosystem dynamics and pollution effects elucidated in these studies of CSC to three other priority caves in Benton County. Thus, ANHC’s investment of resources in the study and protection of this Natural Area have been quite effective, and this investment is being leveraged to benefit other endangered species’ habitats. Very few long-term data sets exist for North American caves, and this seriously limits knowledgeable management of them. Cave Springs Cave should continue to be monitored to help fill this void and to enable successful management of its unusual biota and their habitat. But monitoring is only the first step - successful management sometimes requires taking bold actions to protect these natural resources. Our management recommendations at the end of this report outline the actions we feel need to be initiated now. Bacteria and some nutrient and metal concentrations chronically exceed Regulation 2 maximum contaminant levels and regional background levels. It is imperative to reduce the pollution input from septic leachates and landapplied manures in the CSC groundwater basin, especially if sensitive species, such as cave amphipods (Stygobromus ozarkensis, State Species of Concern) are to persist in this Natural Area. Despite the degraded water quality, the Ozark Cavefish population appears to be stable or increasing.
Graening, G. O. and Brown, A. V.. 2001. Protection of Cave Spring Cave Biota and Groundwater Basin. Arkansas Water Resources Center, Fayetteville, AR. MSC297. 37