Environmental Management

, Volume 58, Issue 6, pp 1027–1045 | Cite as

Comparing and refining karst disturbance index methods through application in an island karst setting

  • Brandon L. Porter
  • Leslie A. NorthEmail author
  • Jason S. Polk


The interconnected nature of surface and subsurface karst environments allows easy disturbance to their aquifers and specialized ecosystems from anthropogenic impacts. The karst disturbance index is a holistic tool used to measure disturbance to karst environments and has been applied and refined through studies in Florida and Italy, among others. Through these applications, the karst disturbance index has evolved into two commonly used methods of application; yet, the karst disturbance index is still susceptible to evaluation and modification for application in other areas around the world. The geographically isolated and highly vulnerable municipality of Arecibo, Puerto Rico’s karst area provides an opportunity to test the usefulness and validity of the karst disturbance index in an island setting and to compare and further refine the application of the original and modified methods. This study found the both methods of karst disturbance index application resulted in high disturbance scores (Original Method 0.54 and Modified Method 0.69, respectively) and uncovered multiple considerations for the improvement of the karst disturbance index. An evaluation of multiple methods together in an island setting also resulted in the need for adding additional indicators, including Mogote Removal and Coastal Karst. Collectively, the results provide a holistic approach to using the karst disturbance index in an island karst setting and suggest a modified method by which scaling and weighting may compensate for the difference between the original and modified method scores and allow interested stakeholders to evaluate disturbance regardless of his or her level of expertise.


Karst Human impact Disturbance index Resource conservation Puerto Rico 



We graciously thank individuals and agencies that supported this research, including Abel Vale of Citizens of the Karst, the U.S. Geological Survey, Dr. Pat Kambesis, and Victoria Allen. This work was funded in part through a Western Kentucky University New Faculty Research Grant.

Compliance with Ethical Standards

Conflict of Interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  • Brandon L. Porter
    • 1
  • Leslie A. North
    • 2
    Email author
  • Jason S. Polk
    • 2
  1. 1.International School of PanamaPanamaRepublic of Panama
  2. 2.Center for Human GeoEnvironmental Studies, Department of Geography and GeologyWestern Kentucky UniversityBowling GreenUSA

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