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Conservation & Restoration in Matienzo Caves

Introduction
This page will grow. As more cavers pass through the caves, more damage will be done. The underground environment should be conserved and, if damaged, restored. There is a full spectrum of both conservation and restoration ranging from none to total.

Conservation
Ultimate conservation occurs when the caves remain a system with no human input. Reasonable conservation can occur when cavers "cave softly" and leave no or little trace. An (informal) assessment can be carried out for those formations, sediments and cave biota which may be "at risk" and conservation measures put in place. This may involve taping off areas and routes through or past delicate items.
Archaeological remains stay where they are. So conservation occurs until it is deemed worthwhile to excavate, ie something new is likely to be learned from perhaps a new archaeological technique.

Restoration
Certain formations or deposits may be restored to some extent, eg stal can be stuck back together and formations cleaned of mud smeared on by passing cavers.

Previous work
Some Americans are into virtually total conservation and restoration. This is reflected in the extract from Cave Conservation & Restoration*, the Minimum-Impact Code of Ethics for caving Groups. Some of the techniques mentioned in the book have been applied and could be further applied to the formations and deposits in Matienzo caves.
[ *Hildreth-Werker Val and Werker Jim C, 2006. Cave Conservation & Resoration 2006 Edition. Huntsville (AL): National Speleological Society. 660 p. ]

C & R in Matienzo Caves
A couple of attempts have been made to gather information and rectify some damage within our permit area - in Cueva-Cubio de la Reñada in La Vega (site 48) and Torca La Vaca (site 2889) at Hornedo. In the former cave, thoughtless exploration and clambering around in areas with muddy clothes and boots has potentially obliterated orange / red pools and flows. The problem is outlined here. The restoration and subsequent conservation of these formations and areas will require some planning and support.
In Torca La Vaca, a number of formations were broken and mud smeared onto stalagmites during the initial explorations in 2008. A trip in November repaired a couple of small stal using the pin-and-resin method and brought out some sections of a 157cm high, thin "totem" which had been broken into 9 pieces. This was repaired outside the cave using a similar pin-and-resin technique and the stal reinstalled in January 2009. Red and white tape was laid around groups of formations which had been smeared and these were then cleaned, or at least the cleaning process started. Cave water in a plastic flower spray was used with sponges. The problems of conservation and restoration in Torca La Vaca are shown here.

Techniques used in November 2008
Conservation
1: Red and white tape is seen as the least damaging to the cave environment (sediments, formations, cave life) but visually very obstrusive. However, it can be removed and replaced for photos and is cheap and easily laid out. In some cases, tape should be supplemented, or replaced by small notices or arrows.
2: Raising caver awareness, discussion and education is perhaps the best way to conserve delicate or attractive environments. A Matienzo Google Group thread was started and there were over 40 responses (some serious!) within a few days.
Restoration
1: Removing mud from "off route" formations possibly followed by taping and/or small signs is one relatively simple method of restoring formations to their original state. (Details).
2: The pin-and-resin method for repairing broken stalagmites is detailed here.

Juan Corrin
November 2008, January 2009