Mole Creek Caving Club
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please look after cave bugs!



please tread lightly on the karst!

Threats to Caves  

Caves and karst are in dynamic and delicate ecological flux. The caves we discover and visit now have developed over time scales of millions of years, and even modest decorations are tens to hundreds of thousands of years old. In human terms, caves are irreplaceable, and any impact or damage is permanent. The living ecology is fragile and easily disturbed. The energy, food and life cycles are so subtle as to be scarcely perceptible. 

The major threats to caves and karst are:

  1. forest logging, roading and clearing of natural catchment vegetation cover

  2. mining and exploration activities

  3. fire - illegal and legal burnoffs, forestry clearfell/burn, arson.

  4. inappropriate agricultural practices

  5. altering natural water hydrology

  6. pollution and contamination of waters

  7. damage to caves and contents by visitors, by accident or intent

  8. inappropriate development of caves

Mining (2) has an obvious and dramatic impact of removing caves entirely.

The majority (1-6) of these land-use threats to caves are indirect in their impacts and usually not obvious to the perpetrators. The cause and effect relationships of these activities to the cave systems are rarely obvious, and education, regulation and legislation are often the keys to conservation. Any such activities have the potential to alter the karst hydrological flow patterns, the water chemistry, turbidity and microbiological quality, the quality, chemistry, structure and quantity of soils, forest litter, the surface vegetation and ecology, and the microclimate. The caves suffer from changes in water flows, altering the cave climate, the drip rate and drip chemistry, stopping of speleothem growth, speleothem etching and dissolution, loss or dramatic increase of biological inputs, siltation of stream gravels, blocking and infilling caves with sediment and debris, and loss or extinction of terrestrial and aquatic cave species. See our article on Causes and Effects, which may offer a deeper understanding of the processes with some technical and scientific detail.

While (7) one may seem more obvious, caves need protection from visitors. This may take the form of educating new cavers about minimising their impacts, or limiting access particularly to inexperienced or insensitive visitors or when vulnerable caves are concerned. One initiative we have taken is our establishing the youth outreach program. Vital to this end is caving clubs practicing and promoting responsible caving, and the limiting of inappropriate publicity of caves and their locations in particular. The Australian Speleological Federation's (ASF) Code of Ethics and Minimal Impact Caving Code are reproduced on this website. We suggest you read these as supplementary to local club guidance, training and practical experience. Finally, caves are also vulnerable to vandalism and speleothem thieves. 

Development of caves for tourism and other purposes (8) pose special problems for cave managers.

What can we do about these threats and how do we act to conserve caves?   

Mole Creek Caving Club, in cooperation with a number of local, statewide and national conservation organisations, actively protest, lobby and advocate on behalf of the caves. We foster programmes of cooperation and education with landowners, land users, management authorities, all levels of governments, councils, youth and the general public. We unite and exchange information with other caving organisations and special interest groups. We keep members informed and included in our efforts and current affairs. We spread the cave and karst conservation message using the media, presentations, articles, and publish our own journal, Illuminations. We discourage publicity of cave locations, while encouraging those people with an interest in caves or caving to visit tourist caves and make contact with caving clubs.

We act locally. We undertake cave research, sometimes in collaboration with organisations such as the University of Tasmania. We perform cave cleaning and rehabilitation works. We train and cave to minimise the impacts of our visits to caves, and where possible to act so there is some net benefit to the caves by means of training, education, rehabilitation work, research, surveying or documentation. We choose to visit caves appropriate to the minimal impact caving skills and sensitivities of the party members. We observe the ASF codes of practice and urge you read them and apply them to your caving. 

Some of our conservation efforts and achievements over the years

We have undertaken extensive cave cleaning, removing mud from past visitors from speleothems in Wet, Kubla Khan and Croesus caves. We worked towards the physical restriction of access into Lynds and Tailender caves. We have worked towards creating the Mole Creek Karst National Park and continue to advocate its expansion to more appropriate boundaries and to implement better management. We are working towards a more comprehensive proposed Great Western Tiers National Park. One step on the way towards this was the Great Western Tiers area National Heritage Listing*. We actively support the Jackey's Marsh Forest Festival* with field trips and karst conservation interpretation. A key focus of our youth outreach program is education in karst processes and the protection of fragile environment through ecological awareness, minimal impact caving and appropriate land use. We assisted with The Wilderness Society and others to make the government close down the limestone quarrying operation overlying the World Heritage recognised Exit Cave system. We work for the protection of the World Heritage quality Tarkine forests and karsts, and most particularly its rare magnesite karst which is threatened by mining. Our discovery and documentation of phototropic phytospeleothems assisted with saving Dogs Head Hill from logging by rezoning for protection. We continue our efforts to discover, survey, document and research the karst, caves, fauna and ecology of Mole Creek. We continue to oppose logging and other destructive activities in karst and other catchments. We have raised awareness of the impacts of various cave user groups, and acted towards diverting high-impact groups away from sensitive caves. We lobbied successfully against private interests establishing a piggery on land overlying the main Mole Creek cave system. We have assisted the Tasmanian Conservation Trust to scuttle an inappropriate tourism development at karstic highland Lake Lea at the Environment Protection Appeal Board. We assisted The Environment Association* in opposing, though only succeeding in ameliorating, the violation of the highly significant Dismal Swamp Polje by Forestry Tasmania's inappropriate tourism development at the Resource Management and Planning Appeal Tribunal. Our conservation and management influence has been enhanced with the formation of the Tasmanian Speleological Liaison Council, uniting the voice of MCCC with the other Tasmanian clubs (STC, NC and SRCC). In 2006 we became a founding member organisation of Environment Tasmania*.


*external links                    

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