The St James Cave Assessment Project


Interim Report for 2004



R.S. Stewart1, S. E. Koenig2, S. Peck3, D. McFarlane4, I. C. Conolley5, G. van Rentergem6, M. Taylor7, P. Allsworth-Jones8, S. McCall9, M. Bellinger10, D. K. Roggy11, E. Slack12


(1Chair - Jamaican Caves Organisation, 2Principal Biologist - Windsor Research Centre, 3Professor of Biology - Carleton U, 4Associate Professor of Biology - WM Keck Science Center, 5Vice-chair - JCO, 6JCO, 7JCO, 8Senior Lecturer in Archaeology - UWI, 9Peace Corps Volunteer, 10PCV, 11PCV, 12PCV)




In 2004, members of the Jamaican Caves Organisation conducted a systematic assessment and inventory of the caves of the parish of St. James, Jamaica. Over 50 caves were visited, and good work was done. We are pleased to submit this interim report to the National Environmental and Planning Agency of Jamaica, and thereby supply a summary of the current status, and accomplishments, of this ongoing project.



The report consists of three separate documents: (1) this summary; (2) a database in .xls and .dbfIV; and (3) a text file of comments that accompanies the database. This digital submission will be followed by a printed version, as soon as is possible.






The main product of this project is the compilation of a database that provides an overview of the current condition of the target caves. The core has been the Jamaican Cave Register as found in Jamaica Underground, by Alan G Fincham, but it has been expanded to include other factors pertinent to the study of caves in Jamaica, and also lists caves discovered by the JCO.


Prior to the commencement of the project, the Principal Investigator, in consultation with Dr. Susan Koenig, of the Windsor Research Centre, G. O. Graening, of The Nature Conservancy, and Dr. Donald McFarlane, of the Keck Science Centre, decided upon a selection of observations that would serve as indicators of the general biological and hydrological health of the caves. It is hoped that these observations, accompanied by accurate positions for the studied caves, will be of assistance in future research and conservation efforts. A general description, and rationale, for the chosen observations follows below.



Description, History, and Positional Data


The main source for information on the caves of Jamaica, in the past, has been the publication, “Jamaica Underground”, by Alan G. Fincham. This is a valuable compilation of past caving efforts, but the information contained within is not in a format that can be filtered or sorted. In addition, because the visits to the caves were made before the days of accurate GPS georeferencing, many of the positions listed do not allow one to easily locate the entrances to the caves. It is difficult to monitor and study a cave if one cannot find it. To improve this situation, one of our most important priorities has been to determine WGS84 positions with an accuracy that will not only allow relocation of the listed caves, but will eliminate the duplicate entries to be found in the Jamaican Cave Register, as published in Jamaica Underground.


In the course of JCO expeditions, a number of new caves have been discovered, and these have been duly entered into the main database. The St James sub-set of the larger database, presented in this interim report, includes these discoveries, and it is hoped that those that are of biological, hydrological, and archaeological importance will be examined further in the future. Caves that are additions to the existing Jamaican Cave Register, as received by Fincham, are indicated by a double asterisk in the Cave Names column.


The positional data has been supplied in four different coordinate systems, so that datum transform problems will not present an obstacle to those who wish to find the listed caves. Most of the positions are accurate to +/- 5 m, but those that are not are indicated in the database. Generally, positions listed as +/- 5 m are 3D Differential WAAS; those that are +/- 10 are without Differential, or have been measured from the entrance to a waypoint. All original data was in WGS84 L/L and has been converted using Geotrans. The coordinate systems that are used follow below:


JAD69: The coordinate system used for the 1:50000 Metric Topo Maps. Details on datum transforms for WGS84 can be found at The JAD69 parameters used in the database are JAD69_3.


JAD2001: The new Jamaican datum. Details on datum transforms for WGS84 can be found at


WGS84 Latitude and Longitude: The GPS datum.


WGS84 UTM: The Universal Transverse Mercator projection.



Date of Assessment and Current Land-use


The observations listed in the database are snapshots in time, and to have these be of value, we have included the exact time of the visits, and the current land-use where the caves are found.



Physical Condition


This section addresses observations of the presence of specific speleothems, and climate, and also the degree to which human interference has degraded the studied caves. With regard to human interference, we have been noting damage to speleothems, and the presence of garbage, especially in caves that are hydrologically active, at least seasonally. With regard to climate, the observations are crude, but should serve as a general indicator of biological activity; those caves that are hot and dry should not be expected to offer great promise; those that are humid and cool could be of interest.





Hydrological activity of the visited caves has been noted. Because of the importance of the karstic hydrology to the domestic water supply of Jamaica, we consider this one of the more important data sets to be found in this work. When filters are applied to this section, and also to the column on the presence of trash/garbage to be found further on in the database, it quickly shows which caves are the most deserving of protection, when seen in a water-quality context.


Caves in Jamaica can have water associated with them in several ways. They can act as risings, sinks, and can also have water present with no apparent ingress or egress from the surface. An example of a rising is Duppy Cave, near Springvale; an example of a sink is Peterkin Cave West Entrance; an example of a hydrologically active cave that does not take surface water is Rota Sink. Those caves that take surface water may do so only seasonally, but continue to be active when there is no ingress from associated streambeds. Some caves with multiple entrances can be both sinks and risings. The database has attempted to cover all of these possible conditions by using the method described below, (please note that the observations were for the time of the visit):



This column acts as a filter to separate the wet caves from the ones that are dry.


RESURGENCE   0=No, D=Dry, A=Active

This indicates whether the entrance is: not a resurgence; or is a resurgence in one of two states: dry or actively resurging. Resurgences that were dry during the time of the visit were determined to be seasonal resurgences by observations of morphology, both internal and external, along with historical accounts.


SINK  0=No, D=Dry, A=Active

The same factors noted above for resurgences also apply to this column. Note that both of these first two columns pertain to activity particular to the entrance, not the interior of the cave.



This and the following column are pertinent to the hydrology of the interior of the caves. Those caves that were either resurgences or sinks, but had no surface activity, are described as Dry, (no water, flowing or standing), Standing, (pooled water in parts of the cave), Flowing, (an active flow in the cave, despite lack of surface activity, with water coming in underground, either near the entrance or via side-passages). “No” is for filtering purposes.



Those caves that are river caves, but have the waters enter, and exit, underground, are addressed in this column. Seasonally active stream passages, that were dry during the time of the visit, are determined to be seasonally active by way of observation of silt/mud deposits.





Caves supply the primary habitat for many of the species of bats to be found in Jamaica. We have been diligent in noting the presence of bats, or their absence in what were known to be historical roosts. The columns found in this section address that. We have not been able to supply species lists, due to lack of time, permission, and expertise, but we hope that some of our observations, accompanied by the supplied positional data, will serve to enable future study of the more important roosts that have been identified.





This section also includes a species of frog, E. cundalli, but primarily consists of invert species that were determined to be good indicators of the general biological health of the visited caves. The rationale for the inclusion of the particular species follows:


Periplaneta americana


This species, the American cockroach, appears to be the main determining factor in whether a cave that was once biologically diverse, in an invertebrate context, continues to be so. Our observations strongly suggest this to be the case, and we hope to collect enough data during the course of the project to determine whether this is indeed true.




The species of Whip Spider, commonly found in Jamaican caves, is one of the top invert predators. We hope that by systematically recording the presence, or absence, of amblypygids, in caves that appear to supply habitat for their prey, that this information can be used in conjunction with the presence of P. Periplaneta to assist in establishing the threat to the caves of the island by the inadvertent introduction of American cockroaches.


Eleutherodactylus cundalli


This species of frog occurs commonly as a trogloxene inhabiting the entrance area of caves. We hope that it will serve as an indicator of the general condition of the flora and fauna in the immediate vicinity of the entrance of the visited caves.


Neoditomyia farri


This predaceous fly larva has also been determined to serve as a good indicator of the general invertebrate biodiversity in Jamaican caves.


Sesarma verleyi


This stygobitic crab has been chosen to serve as an indicator of the possible presence of other stygobites. If there are S. verleyi in a cave system, there is a good possibility that shrimps and other cave-adapted aquatic species might be present.




Spiders make up the largest taxonomic group of endemic, cave-adapted invertebrates to be found in the caves of the island. At this time, we are noting only the presence of Araneae generally, but intend to eventually expand the database to include other species, (in collaboration with Dr Stewart Peck).



Paleo / Archaeo / Geology


This section addresses paleontological resources, Amerindian artefacts associated with the listed sites, and the geology of the studied caves. We ask that all recipients of this database be circumspect in their sharing of the positional data for the caves of archaeological significance.


We intend to expand on the geology in future versions of the database, in particular, giving more definitive descriptions of the limestone type in which the caves are located.





The final section of the database is intended to give an indication of the vulnerability of the listed caves. It includes current commercial or public activity, protection status, and an assigned vulnerability rating. We have assigned three levels vulnerability for assessment purposes: Low, Medium, and High. The criteria used for our determination of vulnerability follows:


Low: Caves that are not biologically or hydrologically active.


Medium: Caves that are biologically and/or hydrologically active, but are not immediately threatened by human encroachment.


High: Caves that are biologically and/or hydrologically active that are currently being damaged by human interference, or are in imminent threat of being so.


Assignment of caves to particular vulnerability categories has been somewhat subjective, but in general: those caves that are biologically important, and are not currently occupied by Periplaneta americana, are being assigned a high vulnerability rating; those caves that are hydrologically active, and that are observed to be associated with domestic water supplies are also being assigned a high vulnerability rating. We are hopeful that as the project progresses we will be able to identify factors that have a direct, adverse effect on the caves of the island, and thereby refine the vulnerability rating.



In Conclusion:


The work done to date, on the St James cave assessment project, suggests that the output will be of the value that was anticipated. Patterns, derived by filtering of the database, are beginning to emerge, and it is expected that this systematic assessment, and inventory, of the caves of St James, will serve as an aid to future cave conservation and preservation efforts. It is also hoped that the work accomplished will serve as an aid to researchers in a variety of speleological fields.


It is our intention to have the St James project completed by mid-2005, and a final report will be submitted at that time. The extension of this work, to St Ann, and the caves of the Cockpit Country, will also be taking place in 2005, and we will supply an interim report for those activities in early 2006.


My colleagues, and I, would like to thank the National Environmental and Planning Agency of Jamaica for their continued support of our endeavours.



Ronald Stefan Stewart

Chair - JCO


March 9, 2005