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Term Cave

A hollow or natural cavity under or into the earth, with an opening to the surface large enough to fit a human. A particularly large or extensive cave is usually known as a cavern, although the two are used interchangeably. It is also known by the Taino term, guácara.

Most Dominican caves are small, and either marine or karstic in origin. Marine caves are found along the coasts where wave action erodes rocks or in elevated landscapes that in past geologic times were coastal areas.

Karstic caves are located where the ground is formed by limestone deposits that have been eroded through time by acidic rain or groundwater. The carbon dioxide in the water dissolves limestone producing dripstone structures such as stalacites and stalagmites. Karstic caves can be large in size such as the following caves: Las Maravillas, Los Tres Ojos, or Pomier.  

The Dominican Republic has an extensive system of caves throughout the country, representing a significant natural and cultural resource which calls for their protection and conservation. Caves are valuable natural ecosystems that not only host a great diversity of flora and fauna, but also contain prehistoric rock art, including petroglyphs and pictographs, of archaeological and historical value. Of the many caves that can be found in the country, about 25% contain some pre-Hispanic art form, which represents the largest accumulation of rock art known throughout the Caribbean islands.1

On June 3, 1987, Law 297-87 was established declaring all caves, caverns and underground cavities to be preserved as they represent part of the nation’s natural patrimony. Furthermore, Article 160 of Law 64-00, prohibits any physical alteration of their natural and cultural features and the extraction of secondary formations, paleontological materials, archaeological or of any kind, natural or cultural, as well as the introduction of debris and objects of any kind that may alter the overall ecological balance. 2

However, even with existing laws and taking into account that many caves are already found within the National System of Protected Areas, they remain threatened by human activities. For example, the Pomier Caves Anthropological Reserve, located in San Cristobal, is a complex of over a hundred caves with Taino lithography, supporting several endemic species of flora and fauna. Despite their protected status, the buffer zones adjacent to the reserve are being mined for building materials.

1Belando, A.L. Arte en la Penumbra: Pictografías y petroglifos del Parque Nacional del Este República Dominicana; Grupo BHD, 2003.

2Secretaría de Estado de Medio Ambiente y Recursos Naturales. Ley general de Medio Ambiente y Recursos Naturales 64-00. República Dominicana, 2000.


Additional Information
PhotoCuevas de Pomier
Topic  BiodiversityProtected areasResources coastal / marineSoil and water