Groundwater biodiversity in Europe


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January 2005


1. The spatial patterns of groundwater biodiversity in Europe remain poorly known, yet their knowledge is essential to understand local variation in groundwater assemblages and to develop sound conservation policies. We explore here the broad‐scale distribution of groundwater biodiversity across Europe, focussing on obligate subterranean species. 2. We compiled published distributional data of obligate subterranean aquatic taxa for six European countries (Belgium, France, Italy, Portugal, Slovenia and Spain), and conducted a detailed biological survey of six regions (one in Belgium, two in France, one in Italy, one in Slovenia and one in Spain). Based on this data set, we mapped spatial patterns of biodiversity in Europe on a cell grid with 0.2 × 0.2 ° resolution. 3. As of mid‐2006, the total number of described stygobiotic species in the six countries was 930 and the total number of genera with at least one described stygobiotic species was 191. The total number of sampling sites where at least one stygobiont had been collected was 4709, distributed in 1228 of the 4668 grid cells covering the study area. 4. Groundwater stygobiotic biodiversity was dominated by Crustacea with 757 species in 122 genera. Insects were represented by only two species of a single genus of dytiscid beetles restricted to south‐eastern France. 5. The geographic distribution of stygobionts was extremely heterogeneous. Stygobionts were recorded in 26% of the 4668 grid cells and only 33 cells had more than 20 stygobiotic species. These 33 ‘hot‐cells’ of groundwater species richness clustered in seven hotspots. 6. Endemicity was very high, with 43% of the total number of stygobiotic species restricted to a single cell, i.e. <500 km2. 7. Hotspots defined by rarity, number of genera, number of genera with only one species known in Europe, or number of monospecific genera differed markedly in ranking from those based on species richness. However, a core of four hotspots emerged in all cases: one stretching across Slovenia and northeastern Italy


Endemism, Hotspots, Rarity, Species Richness, Stygobionts

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Freshwater Biology, Vol. 54, no. 4 (2005).