Contact: Julie Jackson (703) 379-2480
April 5, 2001


ALEXANDRIA,VA — Living with Karst, a Fragile Foundation,  a new poster produced by the American Geological Institute (AGI), vividly illustrates what karst is and why karst areas are important to society. A colorful montage of typical karst features dominates the front side of the 24” x 18” poster and depicts sinkholes, springs, disappearing streams, and caves. This side also shows views of St. Louis, Missouri, and Guiling, China, as examples of major cities built on karst terrains. On the reverse side of the poster is an activity, “Investigating Karst Watersheds,” designed to help students understand and compare processes that affect water resources in karst and non-karst areas.

Approximately 25% of the world’s population lives in karst areas. Karst landscapes develop in areas underlain by soluable bedrock that gradually dissolves and is removed by the natural action of mildly acidic groundwater. The hollow nature of these regions makes them vulnerable to environmental impacts. Water in wells and springs can dramatically and rapidly fluctuate in response to surface events. Following storms, droughts, and changes in land use, new sinkholes can form suddenly, collapsing to swallow buildings, roads, and pastures. The poster highlights one sinkhole that appeared in Winter Park, Florida, in 1981 and grew in a few days to over 330 ft (100 m) long by 300 ft (90 m) wide, destroying cars, a highway, a swimming pool, buildings, and trees.

The karst poster was designed as a companion to a non-technical book by the same title. The book, Living with Karst, A Fragile Foundation, will be available in May and will include a copy of the poster. The poster and the booklet are part of the AGI Environmental Awareness Series, which aims to increase public awareness and understanding of the natural systems that sustain society and life. AGI is producing the karst materials in cooperation with the American Cave Conservation Association; the Bureau of Land Management; the Geological Surveys in the states of Kentucky, Indiana, and Illinois (Illinois Basin Consortium); National Park Service, National Speleological Society, USDA Forest Service, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and the U.S. Geological Survey.

Nearly 50,000 middle- and high-school science teachers will receive copies of the poster in the May issues of Science Scope and The Science Teacher, two professional journals published by the National Science Teachers Association. In addition, more than 70,000 copies will be distributed to geoscientists and to the general public in the next few months by members of the AGI Federation including the American Institute of Professional Geologists, National Association of Geoscience Teachers, National Earth Science Teachers Association, and National Speleological Society. Subscribers to Geotimes, AGI’s monthly newsmagazine, will receive the poster as an insert in the May issue. The poster will also be included in Earth Science Week 2001 information kits.

Living with Karst was prepared under the sponsorship of AGI’s Environmental Geoscience Advisory Committee with support from the AGI Foundation. The objective of the Environmental Awareness series is to promote better understanding of the role of the Earth sciences in all aspects of environmental concerns and issues. Since its appointment in 1993, AGI’s Environmental Geoscience Advisory Committee, co-chaired by Dr. Philip E. LaMoreaux and Dr. Stephen H. Stow, has assisted the Institute by identifying projects and activities that will help AGI achieve the following goals:

For additional information on AGI’s environmental geoscience program, contact Travis L. Hudson, AGI Director of Environmental Affairs, by e-mail,, or by phone, (360) 681-5107.

For bulk order pricing, please contact the Publications Center at the American Geological Institute, 4220 King Street, Alexandria, VA 22302, Tel. (703) 379-2480, E-mail:

The American Geological Institute is a nonprofit federation of 37 geoscientific and professional associations that represent more than 120,000 geologists, geophysicists, and other earth scientists. Founded in 1948, AGI provides information services to geoscientists, serves as a voice of shared interests in our profession, plays a major role in strengthening geoscience education, and strives to increase public awareness of the vital role the geosciences play in mankind's use of resources and interaction with the environment. More information about AGI can be found at The Institute also provides a public-outreach web site,

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