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Land for karst: protecting habitat

Arkansas Natural Heritage Commission - Friday, March 29, 2019

by Bryan Rupar, ANHC

To meet its goals and responsibilities, the ANHC acquires land through purchases and donations that contains habitat for rare, threatened, or endangered species for inclusion in the System of Natural Areas. Protecting a particular cave opening, sinkhole, or other karst feature is important, but to ensure long-term protection goals of the karst-adapted species, additional properties are often needed.

Bats require travel corridors for foraging and summer roosting habitat. Grotto Salamanders (Eurycea spelaea) can spend a portion of their life cycles in the streams and springs outside of caves. Aquatic cave species like the Hell Creek Cave crayfish (Cambarus aculabrum) and the Foushee cavesnail (Amnicola cora) depend on high water quality, so protecting land within the cave recharge zone is important to decrease threats from hydrological alteration, nutrient loading from chemicals or sewage systems, sedimentation, temperature change, and chemical pollution.

In the last three years, the ANHC has made 14 purchases of karst habitat totaling 1,997 acres at five natural areas. This includes $3.6 million of funding from a variety of sources including federal grants, the 1/8-Cent Conservation Tax, Arkansas Natural and Cultural Resource Council grants, and $1.6 million from private grant funds.

Incorporating these lands into the System of Natural Areas ensures that the current vegetative cover will remain intact, and degraded areas will be restored to their historical structure and composition. In addition to protecting karst dependent species, these lands also support a wide range of terrestrial plant and animal species. Further, the tracts will be safeguarded from human disturbance and habitat loss.

Photos:

Top left -- Nearly 1,300 acres of karst habitat have been protected at Devil’s Eyebrow Natural Area in Benton and Carroll counties over the last three years. Photo by Bryan Rupar, ANHC.

At right -- Private grant funds contributed 90 percent of the acquisition costs for a 400-acre addition to Foushee Cave Natural Area in Independence County. Photo by Bryan Rupar, ANHC.



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