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Caverns Ecology

  • Echo-Dell / The Caverns / Caverns Ecology

The Life In And Around Caverns

The balance of nature inside caverns is disrupted by tourists and spelunkers invading this natural domain. We the public, defend the right to do this by observing the beauty found underground and to teach others about the balance of nature and what man can do to preserve our precious resources that exist under the surface.

What is placed on top of the earth penetrates the earth’s surface. In doing so the underground environment is contaminated. Sometimes this contamination is quickly reversible but depending on the contaminant it may not. Millions of people obtain their drinking water from underground sources. This alone is reason enough to guard this natural world.

Echo Dell: Snowman / Rainbow room at Indian Echo CavernsAn example of the former is the contamination of a cave in Kentucky. The town, built over the cave obtained its drinking water from an underground stream traversing through it. Unfortunately, the outhouses the townspeople used gradually contaminated their own water supply as the bacteria made its way through the rock into the stream. Recently the town put in public sewage and the contamination was ended. Gradually the cave is restoring itself to its former clean environment. This is a good example of problems that man created, man can fix.

In addition to sewage, land fills are a source of contaminating the underground environment. Now more precautions are taken to prevent this or to curb the harmful effects of them.

Hazardous material spills and open garbage dumps can end up contaminating the water supply of homes in the vicinities of these spills. As a result poisons or carcinogens can be introduced into water supplies.

Green plants which grow inside the caverns are not found there naturally. Spores are carried or brought into caverns by air currents and on peoples’ clothing. The light gives them a life source. Fertilizers are brought into caverns on the lint from peoples’ clothing. The detergents we use contain phosphates which help the plants grow. Ridding caverns of plant life is a constant battle.

Please leave this page with the knowledge that what we do on the surface is reflected in the precious underground environment. We as stewards of the earth must always be conscious of our duty to do whatever is in our power to protect it.

In areas where there are many caves or caverns, numerous appearing and disappearing streams, and sinkholes are called karsts areas. It is important in municipal planning that industries are not allowed to build in these areas. One main reason is due to the ease of groundwater pollution and contamination. Another reason is the integrity of the underlying ground where the buildings are placed. The karsts area around Indian Echo Caverns goes from an area called the East Mall east of Harrisburg then through the Hummelstown and Indian Echo Caverns area, near the Hershey Medical Center, through Hershey and into Palmyra. There are a great number of sinkholes that suddenly appear in these areas.

Sinkholes are part of the underground water system. They take place just like a gully or washout would occur on the surface. They are formed as a result of this underground erosion; the surface gives way and a hole in the surface suddenly appears.

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