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A New Service from Cave Lighting Project

Lamp flora is common to show caves since the beginning of electric lighting in the 19th century. This phenomena was scientifically investigated in the 1950s and 60s. (Claus 1955 and 1964, Dobát 1963).

The main object of the research was to find out what type of plants and algae were involved. First studies by Karst institutes and caves of national parks threw more light onto the secret of plant growth caused by artificial light. After finding out which plants, algae and bacteria were to be dealt with, the focal point of the discussion in the years following was the prevention or reduction of lamp flora. In the meantime, many caves are recognised as part of the World Heritage and the ecological system in caves appears to be much more complex than first assumed. At first, various quite toxic chemicals were applied to stop the growth of algae. Biological methods are still in the research phase. Most of the chemicals used, such as sodium hypochlorite, formalin or hydrogen peroxide, are not only extremely aggressive but also poisonous and may well cause damage to the cave and its formations. As a result of using high performance lamps and highly excessive illumination the vegetation growth has greatly increased in many show caves. Not only the aesthetic experience suffers, also the stalactites, stalagmites and other speleothems. The removal of the algae conglomerations and the fight against their spreading has become an increasingly apparent problem for many show cave operators.

After several years of experience in the installation of self developed LED lamps in show caves we can say that not only are colour and intensity of the light important, but above all a sophisticated concept incorporating correct positioning of the lamps is called for. The distance between the light source and the illuminated object must be adequate.

The reduction of the hours of illumination is also of the greatest importance and can be easily achieved by using intelligent controlling and continuously variable LED lamps. In one of our first projects, Herbstlabyrinth Cave in Germany, we have been researching the effect of the Cave LightingTM illumination since its opening in 2009. To date there is no sign of any lamp flora. In other projects, for example, in the Grotte de Remouchamps, Belgium, further positive effects of our lighting have also been observed. Here, even in a frequently visited cave with long hours of illumination, the intelligent lighting system has led to the withering of the existing lamp flora.
The various aspects of lamp flora were already taken into consideration during the development of the Cave LightingTM systems. Care was taken to avoid heat generation in our LED lamps, as this may support algae growth

However, whether prior to a new installation or in order to purge vegetation growth from a show cave in general, we have developed a complex technology for the removal of lamp flora and other contaminants from caves. Unfortunately, it is a known fact that already existing lamp flora is difficult to remove and despite LED technology may still be able to flourish, even if at a greatly reduced rate.
Therefore, the only acceptable solution is the complete professional elimination by experienced specialists.

Cave Cleaner :
After a test period of several years carried out by Cave Lighting Project specialists in various show caves, a complex technology for the “mild” but thorough eradication of lamp flora and other contaminants was developed.

The main component of Cave Cleaner is a cave cleansing substance that removes most algae causing lamp flora without impairing the walls or speleothems. It contains no toxins or corrosive ingredients, so no particular safety precautions have to be taken.

Cave Cleaner is environmentally friendly. Neither bats nor any other creature found in caves will be harmed by it. Just a few hours after cleaning, the cave may be re-opened to the public. Cave Cleaner may also be used for the removal of plant growth in sensitive areas in which mechanical treatment may not or cannot be carried out.

Growth of algae and other vegetation is not part of an ecological system naturally found in complete darkness and should be therefore removed, not only for optical reasons.

Cave Cleaner has been successfully used in nine show caves.

We shall willingly supply more information on request.

We shall be glad to draw up an estimate for the removal of lamp flora in your show cave.