Publication Date


Advisor(s) - Committee Chair

Dr. Chris Groves (Director), Dr. Jason Polk, Dr. Rickard Toomey,III, Dr. Joel Despain

Degree Program

Department of Geography and Geology

Degree Type

Master of Science


As discussed in the National Parks Service’s (NPS) Directors Orders/Natural Resources Management Reference Manual #77 and the 2006 NPS Management Policy Handbook, implementing a management plan specifically for cave and karst resources within a national park is paramount to afford these resources appropriate protection. With support from the Federal Cave Resources Protection Act and the National Park Service Organic Act of 1906, management actions protecting caves has begun to place significant importance outside the traditional cave environment onto a broader karst landscape. The need to understand and protect the karst environment and caves as a karst resource has taken a much larger role in the scientific literature and has increased interest in its federal management application. Proactive management through the use of holistic karst wide management plans and programs is shown to provide superior measures for resource protection when compared to the shortcomings associated with reactive cave focused management. The use of Great Smoky Mountains National Park (GRSM) as a case study supports the need to develop and implement a proactive cave and karst management plan specific to their resources. Management decisions with regards to cave and karst resources currently follow the park's general directives and Superintendent's Compendium. GRSM’s caves and karst areas represent unique resources, such as extensive vertical relief and rare biota, requiring special management in order to effectively protect them and to manage those who study and recreate within them. Characteristics such as these necessitate holistically addressing management of these resources.


Environmental Indicators and Impact Assessment | Natural Resources and Conservation | Natural Resources Management and Policy