Date of Award


Degree Name

Master of Science



First Advisor

Groninger, John


Heavy wheeled and tracked vehicle training has been conducted on portions of the landscape of Fort Knox, Kentucky for approximately 60 years. Fort Knox is located on the Kentucky Karst Plain and sinkholes are dominant features of this area. Sinkholes and karst terrain present an atypical problem in combination with this unique land use, potentially impacting downstream and local terrestrial environment. A study of the training area sinkhole complex was conducted as a first step toward mitigating the impact of military activities and reduces potential problems of sedimentation and water quality degradation. A total of 20 sinkholes within Training Areas 9 and 10 at the Fort Knox Military Reservation were randomly selected to represent the study area. The objective of this study was to determine the relationship between stand structural characteristics, understory light availability and understory vegetation in sinkhole riparian buffers and concentrated flow paths and with the amount of sediment entering sinkholes in the study area. Vegetation data were collected during the growing months of May and June in 2009. All regressions analyses for vegetative structures have r2 values between 0.000 to 0.308 indicating weak to no correlation among the variables. Light availability and percent herbaceous cover showed moderate and weak relationship in buffers (r = 0.547, p = 0.003) and flow paths (r = 0.164, p = 0.245). Sediment gained in splay areas showed no significant relationship to vegetation structure (r = 0.039 to -0.335). The relationship between sediment gained and mean percent herbaceous cover was not significant in flow paths (r = -0.172, p = 0.2341) or buffers (r = 0.130, p = 0.292). While the results of this study suggest the amount of the sediment depositing in the sinkholes was unrelated to observe variation in sinkhole vegetation, the relationship between overstory vegetation and understory vegetation within sinkholes was more noticeable. On site observations strongly suggest that concentrated flow paths were the primary conduits for sedimentation into splay areas. Therefore, management considerations pertaining to training areas should minimize flow paths leading to sinkholes. Best management practices for Fort Knox training areas should integrate these research findings, in addition to current knowledge of riparian buffers and training areas' management requirements.




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