Carlsbad Caverns National Park
United States of America (USA), Inscribed in  1995
Criteria : vii, viii

Carlsbad Caverns National Park

Learn more about the state of conservation of this natural World Heritage site by scrolling down to read assessment summaries.More details can be found by navigating to the "Full references" tab, where conservation issues, benefits and projects are cited alongside values, threats, and protection and management.Sources of information are listed under references.

Finalised on 6 Nov 2014
Conservation Outlook

Good with some concerns

The cave resources of the site which form the basis of its Outstanding Universal Value are well protected yet additional staff could be used to monitor people passing through the cave, in particular as park visitation is increasing. However, the site will be able to maintain current biodiversity only with heightened diligence, funding and direction, particularly to address the threat of invasive species. There are no current threats to the geological values of the site for which it was inscribed. But increased oil and gas development can increase contamination of water resources and pollution (gas) could threaten all cave resources.

Values

Good Trend: Stable
Current state and Trend of values
Good

The cave resources of the site which form the basis of its Outstanding Unviersal Value are well protected yet additional staff could be used to monitor people passing through the cave, in particular as park visitation is increasing.

Threats

Low Threat
Overall Threats
Low Threat

There are no current threats to the geological values of the site for which it was inscribed. However, exotic plants and animals threaten biological stability of native ecosystems. Increased oil and gas development can increase contamination of water resources and pollution (gas) could threaten all cave resources. Lowered water table as a result of drought, climate change and over use of water resources in nearby agricultural areas could decrease surface water imperiling riparian areas.

Protection and Management

Effective
Overall Protection and management
Effective

Overall, protection and management of the site are mostly effective. However, funding and human resources could be increased. Almost all available resources are used for cave protection and visitor services and increased resources could help better integrate other aspects biodiversity into management, such as for example the site’s biodiversity values. Monitoring and research need to be more focused on management needs and understanding of the site’s Outstanding Universal Value.

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Assessment Information
Finalised on 6 Nov 2014

Values

The cave resources of the site which form the basis of its Outstanding Unviersal Value are well protected yet additional staff could be used to monitor people passing through the cave, in particular as park visitation is increasing.

Good

World Heritage Values
Good Trend: Stable

Rare and unique speleothems
Low Concern Stable

The park’s primary caves, Carlsbad and Lechuguilla, are well known for the abundance, diversity, and beauty of their decorative rock formations. Lechuguilla Cave exhibits rare and unique speleothems, including a great abundance of large calcite and gypsum formations, including the largest accumulation of gypsum “chandeliers,” some of which extend more than six meters (18 feet) in length. (Statement of Significance, 2006).

Geological features
Good Stable

Carlsbad Caverns National Park is one of the few places in the world where on-going geologic processes are most apparent and rare speleothems continue to form, enabling scientists to study geological processes in a virtually undisturbed environment (Statement of Significance, 2006). Capitan Reef is the largest exposed Permian Reef in the world, approximately 250 million years old. The Capitan Reef, in which Carlsbad Caverns and Lechuguilla Cave (and other caves) formed is one of the best preserved and most accessible complexes available for scientific study in the world. The more than 100 limestone caves within Carlsbad Caverns National Park are outstanding and notable world-wide because of their size, mode of origin (i.e. dissolution via sulfuric acid), exceptional geologic features, and unique rock formations.

Other Biodiversity values
High Concern Trend: NA

Biodiversity
NA Trend: NA

Threats

There are no current threats to the geological values of the site for which it was inscribed. However, exotic plants and animals threaten biological stability of native ecosystems. Increased oil and gas development can increase contamination of water resources and pollution (gas) could threaten all cave resources. Lowered water table as a result of drought, climate change and over use of water resources in nearby agricultural areas could decrease surface water imperiling riparian areas.

Low Threat

Current Threats
Very Low Threat

The are no threats to the geological values of the site. However. exotic plants and animals threaten biological stability of native ecosystems.

Invasive Non-Native/ Alien Species
High Threat

Exotic plants and animals threaten biological stability of native ecosystems.

Other Ecosystem Modifications
High Threat

Change in plant composition due to grazing, climate change, habitat fragmentation on boundaries of park.

Livestock Farming / Grazing
Low Threat

Occasional breach of park fences results in grazing impacts. There are insufficient personnel to monitor fence lines.

Potential Threats
Low Concern

Increased oil and gas development can increase contamination of water resources and pollution (gas) could threaten all cave resources. Lowered water table could decrease surface water imperiling riparian areas.

Oil/ Gas exploration/development
High Threat

Increased oil and gas development can increase contamination of water resources and pollution (gas) could threaten all cave resources

Crops
Low Threat

Lowered water table decreases surface water which could imperil riparian areas

Protection and management

Overall, protection and management of the site are mostly effective. However, funding and human resources could be increased. Almost all available resources are used for cave protection and visitor services and increased resources could help better integrate other aspects biodiversity into management, such as for example the site’s biodiversity values. Monitoring and research need to be more focused on management needs and understanding of the site’s Outstanding Universal Value.

Effective

Protection and management

Research
Some Concern

There is considerable research ongoing; however, it is not directed towards management needs (PR, 2013).

Monitoring
Some Concern

There is considerable monitoring, but it is not directed at management needs (PR, 2013).

Tourism and visitation management
Highly Effective

Tourism appears to be well-managed (PR, 2013).

Education and interpretation programs
Some Concern

There are some education and interpretation programmes in place, but this could be improved (PR, 2013).

Sustainable use
Highly Effective

Not a concern

Staff training and development
Effective

Current staffing is sufficient, but could be increased.

Sustainable finance
Effective

The available budget is sufficient; however further funding could help enhance the management of the site to international best practice standards (PR, 2013).

Boundaries
Some Concern

Boundaries of the site are adequate to protect the site’s OUV; however, they could be improved (PR, 2013). The site has no buffer zone.

Implementation of Committee decisions and recommendations
Highly Effective

No decisions issued requiring implementation

Management effectiveness
Highly Effective

The management system in place appears adequate and is being fully implemented (PR, 2013).

Management system (for transboundary/serial properties, integrated management system should also be described/evaluated)
Effective

The General Management Plan is from 1996 and therefore out of date, though draft management plans for karst and cave management, wastewater rehabilitation and fire management have been developed since 1996. (http://www.nps.gov/cave/parkmgmt/planning.htm)

Integration into regional and national planning systems (including sea/landscape connectivity)
Data Deficient

Data deficient

Legal framework
Effective

Carlsbad Caverns was designated as a national park in 1930.Two thirds of the area are also gazetted as wilderness. The Federal Government has full jurisdiction over all lands within the park boundary through the US Department of the Interior and National Park Service. A Land Protection Plan approved in 1984 is in place covering the private tract. The most recent Periodic Report notes some deficiencies in the implementation of the legal framework (PR, 2013).

Relationships with local people (including stakeholder relationships, participatory management, rights, and access to benefits and equity)
Effective

Overall, relationship with local people is good, but closer partnerships with all local stakeholders would benefit protection and management of the site (R2, R3). Local communities provide some input, but do not have direct role in the management of the site (PR, 2013).

Overall assessment of protection and management

Assessment of the effectiveness of protection and management in addressing threats outside the site
Some Concern

Oil and gas extraction on or near park boundaries is of particular concern and the site has limited capacity to deal with this threat.

Overall assessment of protection and management
Effective

Overall, protection and management of the site are mostly effective. However, funding and human resources could be increased. Almost all available resources are used for cave protection and visitor services and increased resources could help better integrate other aspects biodiversity into management, such as for example the site’s biodiversity values. Monitoring and research need to be more focused on management needs and understanding of the site’s Outstanding Universal Value.

Best Practice Examples

Additional Information

Key Conservation Issues

Issues

Control of exotic species
Local

This park has a long list of exotic species, plant and animal, that threaten the biological stability of the park.

Healthy bat populations
Local

Bats are threatened by climate change, pesticide contamination from wintering areas, threat of white nose syndrome.

Degradation of area water resources
Local

Water mining in recent times can result in lowered water table, this impacts water levels in area caves and surface water such as at Rattlesnake Springs which contains a very high number of threatened/endangered species.

Oil and gas development
Local

Oil and gas development threatens park resources with use of water, nearby habitat fragmentation, pollution issues, potential gas escape into area caves, and elimination of dark skies

Preservation of biodiversity
Local

Biodiversity values of the site are being impacted by invasive species and there is a need to develop an understanding of what occurs in the park and monitoring to protect these resources

Benefits

Nature conservation values

By highlighting values at the park other than only caves, this helps to stress their importance and need for study and understanding

Projects

Active Conservation Projects

N0 Organization/ individuals Brief description of Active Projects Contact Details
1 Jim Cornett Population dynamics and ecology of Ocotillo
2 Dr Eric Metzler 10 year study of moth species found in park
3 Steve West Ongoing 35 year study of birds in the park, especially banding Cave Swallows
4 Dr. Diana Northup Study of cave microbes
5 Hazel Barton Oligotrophy in caves

Compilation of potential project needs

N.O0 Organization/ individuals Brief description of Active Projects Contact Details
1 N.A. Potential impacts of gas flow from area gas wells, gas pipelines, etc.
2 N.A. Biodiversity studies in park to evaluate number of species and distribution
3 N.A. Impacts of exotic species on park biodiversity
Rn0 References
1 Bailey, V. 1928. Animal life of the Carlsbad Cavern. Monograph of the American Society of Mammalogists. 3: 1-195
2 Discussions with park staff
3 Discussions with people who use park (i.e., researchers, hikers, members of area conservation groups, etc.)
4 Degenhardt, W. G., C. W. Painter, and A. H. Price. 1996. Amphibians and Reptiles of New Mexico. University of New Mexico Press. Albuquerque, NM Geluso, K. N., and K.
5 Geluso. 2004. Mammals of Carlsbad Caverns National Park, New Mexico. Bulletin of the University of Nebraska State Museum, Number 17. Lincoln, Nebraska
6 Levine, D. and Pyne, N. 2010. The Best of America Under Threat from Underfunding. Environment America Research and Policy Center. Washington, D.C.
7 Metzler, E. H., and E. C. Knudson. 2011. A new species of Elasmia Moschler from New Mexico and Texas, and a new subspecies of Elasmia Mandela (Druce) from Texas and Oklahoma (Lepidopters, Nothodontidae, Nystaleinae), ZooKeys. 149: 51-67.
8 Metzler, E. H., E. C. Knudson, R. W. Poole, J. D. Lafontaine, and M G. Pogue. 2013. A review of the genus Ogdoconta Butler (Lepidorptera, Noctuidae, Condicinae, Condicini) from North America north of Mexico with descriptions of three new species. ZooKeys. 264: 165-191.
9 West, S. 1995. Cave Swallow (Hirundo fulva). In The Birds of North America, No. 141. (A. Poole and F. Gill, eds.). The Academy of Natural Sciences, Philadelphia, and The American Ornithologists’ Union. Washington, D. C.
10 Periodic Report (PR), 2013.

Site Description

This karst landscape in the state of New Mexico comprises over 80 recognized caves. They are outstanding not only for their size but also for the profusion, diversity and beauty of their mineral formations. Lechuguilla Cave stands out from the others, providing an underground laboratory where geological and biological processes can be studied in a pristine setting.

ⓒ UNESCO