Hillsborough County, Florida, is a karst region that is heavily urbanized, yet no study has been undertaken measuring the degree of human disturbance. Van Beynen and Townsend (2005) created a hierarchical and standardized disturbance index specifically designed for karst environments. To address the problem of determining human disturbance in the county, the above index was successfully applied and it was found that Hillsborough was highly disturbed (disturbance score of 0.69 of 1.0) because of its predominant urban and rural land use. Furthermore, the application of the index allowed for its refinement and the highlighting of environmental aspects in need of remediation such as soil compaction, deforestation, disturbance of archaeological sites, and the expanding urban footprint. Several minor issues arose during the application: the need for broader indicator descriptions that encompass a variety of scenarios, the need for a revised water quality indicator, inadequate data on sinkholes, and a lack of data for species richness and species population density. The utility of the index to resource managers arises from emphasizing certain areas of the environment that require immediate attention and determining temporal changes in environmental quality. Future application of the index requires potential retooling of the biota indicators, tightening of scoring descriptions for certain indicators, and further examination of the scale at which the index can be applied.
van Beynen, P., North, L., Feliciano N., & Townsend, K. (2007). Application of a karst environmental disturbance index in Hillsborough County. Environmental Management, 39(2), 261-277.
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