Top 10 Misconceptions About Karst and Karst Management in BC

Video Length: 1:07:25

Date Recorded: April 29, 2021

Karstified soluble rocks cover 7–10% of the Earth’s surface and 25% of the planet’s population depends upon karst for drinking water (Ford and Williams 2007). An estimated 10% of the provincial land mass is underlain by soluble rocks with the potential to form karst, with more than 95% of it in publicly managed lands.

Karst is recognized as an ecosystem comprised of complex surface-subsurface connections that permit the passage of air, water, biota, and soil. The biological and ecohydrological characteristics of the karst over much of coastal BC are influenced by the nature of the forest cover. Forest trees and soils are integral to karst resource features and karst processes. The unique interconnectedness between surface and subsurface karst elements is one of the reasons why Parise (2010) and many others consider karst to be one of the most fragile and vulnerable of natural environments.

High-value timber, minerals, and other important natural resource values associated with karst in BC have been sought out for development for many decades. BC has made significant strides in some aspects of managing karst, particularly in relation to industrial forestry activities on the coast, but regular monitoring, assessment and local karst research are needed to ensure the BC succeeds in achieving its sustainable management goals and commitments.

Knowledge and capacity deficits with respect to karst are among the most pressing karst management issues in BC at present. Many of the BC’s citizens, including many land managers and decision-makers, are unfamiliar with karst. Few receive formal education or training in the subject. The result is a low information environment where misinformation about karst can flourish unchecked.


Paul Griffiths

Paul holds a PhD in karst science earned through his studies via the University of Nova Gorica’s Karstology program at the Karst Research Institute in Slovenia, named the UNESCO Chair for Karst Education in 2014. The subject of his doctoral research was BC’s karst management framework.

Paul's interest in karst began early in life. He was born in France and spent a good deal of time in karst areas of Europe as he was growing up. His post-secondary education began with a B.Sc. at the University of Victoria in 1973. Paul then spent close to the next 20 years employed in the BC forest industry sector, first as an environmental biologist, and then a corporate environmental and industrial hygiene manager.

Most of Paul's work has been carried out in the karst of the BC Coast and some Interior regions. From about 1977, he began to do consulting and contract studies in karst-related issues, and natural resource management of karst in BC. This work grew into many karst inventory and karst field assessment projects over the decades. His clients included varied government agencies and crown corporations, First Nations, forest agreement holders, and energy project proponents.

As a member of a task force for karst established by the BC Government in 1997, Paul helped to develop the provincial karst inventory standards, vulnerability assessment procedures, operational practice guidelines, and the related training and extension activities. This was followed by contributing to the development of specific legislation for karst and monitoring to determine whether standards and practices had achieved the desired level of protection for karst.

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