Changes of the karst landscape and epikarst system in the area of the Tapolca karst terrains, North-West Balaton Highlands, Hungary
Abstract: The caves in Hungary have been protected for a long time. The current national legislation on nature conservation states that all known and unknown caves are under ex lege protection but the karst areas above them are not. The territories above the caves can be owned by the state but also some of them belong to private owners, thus a great diversity of economic activities are conducted on them. Anthropogenic activities endanger both directly and indirectly the caves environment and the karst ground waters. The damages and pollution of caves take place through the epikarst systems which are in direct connection with the topographic ground surface. Therefore, it is of special significance to emphasize the natural processes taking place in epikarstic systems as well as to analyze the changes within epikarst terrains caused by human impacts. The effects of human impacts on epikarst system in the area of the Tapolca karst were analyzed both by field and laboratory methods. The historical evolution of land cover and land use was assessed related to the impact on the abiotic elements (soil and karstic cover-deposit, water) in Tapolca area. The intrinsic vulnerability was assessed using the semi-quantitative COP Method. The results show high resource vulnerability in all analyzed epikarstic sites.