The Importance of Caves

Essay by kirstieHigh School, 12th gradeA+, April 2004

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Did you know that Vancouver Island has over one thousand caves? That many people come to Vancouver Island for the activity known as spelunking? There are many people on Vancouver Island who don't realize that we are famous for more than just our parliament buildings in Victoria, or our surfing in Tofino. These caves, also known as karst topography, have attracted hundreds of serious cavers from Canada and abroad and are what help make our Island unique. Caves are used for recreational purposes, physical processes, and environmental habitats.

Caving on Vancouver Island has been attracting many tourists from around the world since the 1960's, and has grown rapidly since then. Public interests, concerns for fitness awareness and environmental concerns have contributed to this boom. This tourist attraction not only helps our economy, but it also makes people more aware about karst topography. In order to enjoy caving, however, you need all the right equipment, and a guide, which all costs money!

Having knowledge on karst topography means knowing the dangers of it as well.

Solution caves are made up of limestone and have a high calcium carbonate content. About 10% of the earth's land surface is made up of soluble limestone, which can be easily dissolved by the weak solution of carbonic acid found in underground water. When the water dissolves the limestone it forms channels and caves that are susceptible to surface collapse. By knowing where these caves and channels are, builders, contractors and other people are aware of the danger of sinkholes.

Plants help to maintain the exterior surface of a cave, which cave life survival depends on. Through photosynthesis and decay the plants release carbon dioxide that combines with water in the air and in the soil to form carbonic acid, which carves the cave.