What is so important about caves? Caves form a unique part of our natural and archaeological heritage. They are noted for their historical and prehistoric significance, scenic beauty, economic, recreational, and scientific values and unique cave life. Their conservation is important for many reasons.
As an integral element of our natural heritage, caves are worthy of conservation in their own right. Caves may contain fragile environments which have taken thousands of years to form. Caves in Cyprus offer a habitat for a variety of species such as cave beetles, cave spiders, and bats, just to name a few. Cave features can be ancient, unique and fragile and it is our responsibility to look after them for the benefit and enjoyment of future generations.
Caves also constitute a valuable scientific resource, providing evidence of human cultural change and the development of our landscape as well as changes in our climate. Current concerns about global climate change increase the importance of cave research in helping to understand the impact of past climatic changes and predicting future effects.
Caves in Cyprus took thousands to millions of years to form. They are a completely non-renewable resources. Once something within the cave is damaged or destroyed, it cannot be renewed in our lifetimes or within any reasonable multi-generational time.
Cave conservation is a critically important activity. It is not about barring people from caves and imposing unreasonable restrictions; it is about encouraging a culture of care in our societies, to consider all actions in caves and educate about how best any lasting impacts on the environment can be avoided.
Cave conservation involves the protection and restoration of caves to prevent or minimise the effects of human activities. The conservation work itself can take many forms, including removal of litter or washed-in debris, protection of groundwater, historic and prehistoric conservation, speleothem repair, protection of cave biodiveristy, graffiti removal, limiting access when necessary and many other activities. At cave entrances work can involve removal of historic waste, landscaping, or construction work to make the entrance safe and stable. Conservation work also covers documentation, education and training.
Some caves have delicate features that can be disturbed by changes in light levels, humidity, temperature or air flow. For example, show caves that have lighting that remains on may result in algae growing within the cave changing its appearance and ecology. Additionally, speleothems form as a result of water on cave surfaces and cave air humidity. Changes to these because of a high number of visitors, may change the air flow in the cave, and its hydrology, which in turn may alter speleothem development. Moreover, speleothems can have a slow growth rate and removing them as souvenirs or breaking them while moving within the cave can be visible for a long time, often for several generations.
Cavers are important partners in the protection and management of the cave environment. They help preserve and protect caves to ensure access for present and future generations to enjoy. To achieve cave conservation there must be a close working relationship between landowners, cavers and the statutory agencies. It is through such a partnership that both the external and internal threats to the cave environment can be mitigated.
Care is needed to avoid lasting damage and all cavers should be guided by the Cave Conservation Code:
- Cave with care and thought for the environment
- Disturb nothing whether living organisms or geological formations
- Avoid touching formations
- Keep to marked routes
- Take nothing but photographs
- Do not pollute the cave – leave nothing behind