Limestone Karsts of SoutheastAsia: Imperiled Arks of Biodiversity

The overexploitation ofthe world’s biomes for natural products calls for the prioritization ofbiologically important ecosystems for conservation.Here we show that limestone karsts are “arks”ofbiodiversity and often contain high levels ofendemism.Humans have exploited karsts for a variety of  products and services,but unsustainable practices have caused population declines and extinctions among site-endemic taxa.Limestone quarrying is the primary threat to karst biodiversity in Southeast Asia,where quarrying rates exceed those in other tropical regions.Several socioeconomic, political,and scientific issues undermine the stewardship ofthese karsts.Mitigation ofthese problems will involve (a) better land-use planning to  prevent karst resources from being exhausted in developing regions,(b) comprehensive assessments ofa karst’s economic and biological value before development,(c) improved legislation and enforcement to protect karst biodiversity,and (d) increased research and activities to promote public awareness ofthe importance ofkarsts and the threats facing them.

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