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Geological, seismic and soil survey

Springs - biodiversity hotspots and unique habitats

Limestone-Precipitating Springs (LPS): Hydrogeological setting, ecology, and conservation

Springs are biodiversity hotspots and unique habitats that are threatened, especially by water overdraft. Herewe review knowledge on ambient-temperature (non-geothermal) freshwater springs that achieve sufficient oversaturation for CaCO3 to deposit limestone, locally resulting in scenic carbonate structures: Limestone-Precipitating Springs (LPS).
The most characteristic organisms in these springs are those that contribute to carbonate precipitation. These organisms appear to be sensitive to phosphorus pollution. Invertebrate diversity is modest, and highest in pools with an aquatic-terrestrial interface.

Internationally, comprehensive legislation for spring protection is still relatively scarce. Where available, it covers all spring types. The situation in Europe is peculiar: the only widespread spring type included in the EU Habitat Directive is LPS, mainly because of landscape aesthetics. To support LPS inventorying and management to meet conservation-legislation requirements we developed a general conceptual model to predict where LPS are more likely to occur.

To support mapping of LPS in fulfilment of the Habitat Directive, we developed a conceptual model based on fundamental stratigraphic and structural conditions to predict where LPS are more likely to occur in a particular region, with a focus on the geologic structure. This should facilitate an integrated view on spring phenomena and help optimizing management.
The main impacts on LPS are due to inappropriate management underlain by missing awareness. It is thus important to disseminate knowledge on spring habitats, and to urge the application of flow splitters to sustain long-term persistence of key biota.

LPS are found on all continents but do not have a special protection status in most countries yet. This contrasts with the current situation in Europe where LPS are the most protected spring type. Special protection status is primarily due to
aesthetic, cultural and touristic reasons, and only secondarily to the scientific interest as key sites for on going geogenic processes including biocalcification.

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Published Mar 17, 2017 — last modified Mar 21, 2017
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