-Henry David Thoreau in his Journal, April 24, 1859
On a recent visit to Thailand, I got the chance to explore the karst islands of Ao Phang Nga National Park. Karst islands are formed by tectonic activity lifting limestone out of the sea, followed by chemical and physical weathering that creates a highly varied landscape.
A single karst island can contain a broad range of microclimates, geological features (such as caves and cliffs), and soil properties. In Phang Nga Bay, many karst islands are located next to native mangrove forests, further expanding the range of local habitat types, and wildlife that visit karsts.
The varied landscapes of karsts are reflected by a striking amount of biodiversity and endemism. Many karst species are highly specialized, such as plants that grow on thin, alkaline soils, cave- and tree-dwelling bats, and invertebrates that either depend on bat guano for food, or in some cases are completely restricted to life on guano piles!
In addition to many plants and insects, our group observed bats, macaques, and even Oriental Pied Hornbills on the karst islands of Thailand.