Global Environmental Sustainability

Access to safe water, preservation of biodiversity, and the effects of climate change are global concerns that have particular resonance in Florida. When rainwater falls on limestone surfaces, it forms karst environments that include caves, springs, and other terrains common throughout Florida and covering a significant portion of the Earth’s surface. This fragile environment supplies healthy water to nearly one billion people globally, houses unique forms of life, and comprises a record of climate patterns.

The drinking water supply of about 1.6 billion people depends upon the health of karst terrains and aquifers. Mitigation of geologic hazards in karst costs billions of dollars each year. The Kentucky Geological Survey states that the average annual loss statewide probably exceeds $1 million from flood damage alone. Additionally, karst hosts remarkable, but poorly understood, biodiversity and contains unique, rare, and endangered species. Spectacular geology and significant archaeological and paleontological resources contribute to scientific, aesthetic, cultural, and economic value. Karst is the least understood and most vulnerable type of terrestrial landscape. The full potential of karst for benefit or hazard to the global ecosystem, including humanity, remains poorly understood.

In 2006, the University of South Florida (USF), the National Cave and Karst Research Institute (NCKRI), and the University of New Mexico (UNM) collaboratively established the Karst Information Portal (KIP). The goal of the project was to transform global understanding of karst terrains through an innovative, global on-line linkage among karst researchers, educators, and land managers who desire a wide variety of electronic information on karst topics.

In the coming weeks and months, stay tuned to this page to learn more about the plethora of cutting-edge tools the USF Libraries are developing in order to connect students, scientists, policy makers, and the public with essential environmental data as it’s discovered.

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