top of page

Upcoming talk: The significance of Australia’s karst and caves - Andrew Spate AM

When: 6 pm, 21/09/2023. Nibbles from 5:30 in the upstairs tea room

Where: Earth Sciences Lecture Theatre, UTAS

Talk Overview

Some 50 years ago, Andy's mentor in karst science, the internationally renowned Joe Jennings, wrote along the lines of the following statement:

Australia on a world scale is not well off for caves and karst – although Tasmania

approaches the world’s diversity.

Since that time, we have learnt much more about Australia’s karst resources – ongoing research has revealed much, much more about the diversity and values of our karst and caves. Recent recognition that many of our spectacular sandstone landscapes in northern Australia are a product of silica solution has dramatically extended our awareness of Australian karst-related sceneries.

Australia now has 23 inscribed World Heritage areas – surprisingly perhaps many of these areas have some relationship to karst environments. There are at least two further areas that should be inscribed. The Nullarbor Plain was identified by a report commissioned by the Commonwealth Government to be of World Heritage for its natural (meeting all four of the natural criteria) and cultural value - politics intervened. In Andy's view the Limestone Ranges of the Kimberley (WA) could well be a candidate. The very young limestones along the coasts of Western Australia and east across the southern coasts as far as Lord Howe Island are also of international significance.

Many sites – not judged to be of World Heritage significance – are protected in national parks or similar tenures. Several of our 63 RAMSAR sites are karst based. We are also being confronted by development proposals that threaten some of our important karsts.

This presentation will discuss the values of karst and then review Australia’s karst resources, their significance, and potential threats.

About Andy

Andy's involvement in cave and karst science commenced at age 15 around 60+ years ago under the mentorship of the renowned karst scientist, the late Professor Joe Jennings. His involvement in karst research continues to this day with many peer-reviewed papers and other documents as can be seen from his CV ( Whilst being involved in karst science for six decades his professional career can be divided into three phases:

· After graduating from the University of Canberra he was employed by CSIRO to

provide environmental advice to the Department of Defence. This involved management of a major soil conservation project at Puckapunyal in Victoria as well as similar projects in all Australian states.

· Andy was then appointed to the NSW National Parks and Wildlife Service as the first professional specialist involved in karst management in the Southern Hemisphere. Over 22 years he was heavily involved in karst management as well as other land management activities such as major roles in bushfire fighting.

· Andy ‘retired’ some 20 odd years ago but set up his own consulting company, Optimal Karst Management. As well as ongoing research interests he has been involved in promoting geotourism and better show cave interpretation and management. Much of the 20+ years has been involved in developing and contributing to seven World Heritage and UNESCO Global Geopark nominations in South Korea as well as in Australia. Most of the nominations he has been involved in have been successful.

In 1987 Andy founded, with the late Professor Elery Hamilton-Smith, the very successful Australasian Cave and Karst Management Association (ACKMA). Andy is a Life Member of ACKMA and a Fellow of the Australian Speleological Federation. In 2019 he was made a Member of the Order of Australia (AM) for ‘significant service to conservation, particularly to caves and karst’ in Australia and overseas. He is also a member of several geotourism and show cave technical committees.

bottom of page