ECOLOGICAL STUDIES OF EPIKARST COMMUNITIES IN ALPINE AND PRE-ALPINE CAVESFederica Papi
, 2016, doctoral dissertation
Abstract: The karst ecosystem shows heterogeneity and variability of geology, hydrology, morphology and ecology in space and time. Chemical composition of water in karst plays a crucial role not only in dissolution of karst rocks and deposition but also in ecological processes. The heterogeneous nature of karst aquifers leads to difficulties in predicting groundwater flow and contaminant transport direction and travel times. For its position at the top of karst, epikarst represents the interface between surface and underground. Epikarst ecology, biodiversity and fauna have rarely been systematically studied. The typical absence of enterable passages makes necessary an indirect approach.
In this research, epikarst biodiversity in relation to environmental conditions was studied in seven Alpine and Pre-Alpine caves, located at different altitudes, in Slovenia and in Italy: Snežna jama na planini Arto (1556 m a.s.l.), Jama pod Babjim zobom (860 m a.s.l.), Zadlaška jama (300 m a.s.l.) and Pološka jama (500 m a.s.l.), in Slovenian Alps and Pre-alps, and Grotta A del Ponte di Veja (600 m a.s.l.), Covolo della Croce (875 m a.s.l.) and Grotta di Roverè Mille (1005 m a.s.l.) in Lessinian Massif. In these caves, percolating water was monthly monitored for fauna in the period of one year. Temperature, discharge, conductivity and pH were measured at the same time, and water samples for the laboratory analyses of total hardness, concentrations of various ions (calcium, chlorine, nitrate, sulphate and phosphate) and dissolved organic carbon were taken.
66 aquatic and terrestrial, mostly hypogean, species were found. Aquatic fauna was dominant in all caves, with the exception of Covolo della Croce. Caves located at higher elevations harbour less diverse communities. No animals were found when discharge was very low and in correspondence of moonmilk formations. The most abundant and diverse group was Copepoda, with thirteen different species and 776 individuals at different maturity stadia, totally representing 61% of the community (between two and three copepod species per cave in Slovenia and between one and six per cave in Italy).
The 62% of copepod species were stygobionts. Some copepod species (e.g.
Speocyclops infernus) have wide ecological tolerance to environmental variables, other have more restricted tolerances (e.g. Lessinocamptus insoletus). With regard of copepods, there was a good agreement between the number of observed species and the total number of predicted species, confirming that the sampling method was appropriate and sampling complete. Correlations between the copepod community structure and measured parameters, obtained with Pearson correlation coefficient and principal component analysis (PCA) show different patterns. Presence of copepods was positively correlated with conductivity and dissolved organic carbon in Grotta di Roverè Mille, and with carbonate and nitrate in Pološka jama. In other caves not so high correlations were found between copepod species and measured parameters and between pairs of species.
Investigations of the Alpine and Pre-alpine epikarst fauna can help to understand better the ecology of the epikarst fauna and its roles within the large range of different shallow subterranean habitats.
Found in: ključnih besedah
Summary of found: ...surface and underground. Epikarst ecology, biodiversity and fauna have rarely been systematically studied. The typical...
Keywords: Epikarst, Alpine and Pre-Alpine caves, percolating water, speleobiology, fauna.
Published: 31.08.2016; Views: 2799; Downloads: 203
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