Stygobiotic crustacean species richness: a question of numbers, a matter of scale


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July 2010


Species richness in ground water is still largely underestimated, and this situation stems from two different impediments: the Linnaean (i.e. the taxonomic) and the Wallacean (i.e. the biogeographical) shortfalls. Within this fragmented frame of knowledge of subterranean biodiversity, this review was aimed at (i) assessing species richness in ground water at different spatial scales, and its contribution to overall freshwater species richness at the continental scale; (ii) analysing the contribution of historical and ecological determinants in shaping spatial patterns of stygobiotic species richness across multiple spatial scales; (iii) analysing the role of β-diversity in shaping patterns of species richness at each scale analysed. From data of the present study, a nested hierarchy of environmental factors appeared to determine stygobiotic species richness. At the broad European scale, historical factors were the major determinants in explaining species richness patterns in ground water. In particular, Quaternary glaciations have strongly affected stygobiotic species richness, leading to a marked latitudinal gradient across Europe, whereas little effects were observed in surface fresh water. Most surface-dwelling fauna is of recent origin, and colonized this realm by means of post-glacial dispersal. Historical factors seemed to have also operated at the smaller stygoregional and regional scales, where different karstic and porous aquifers showed different values of species richness. Species richness at the small, local scale was more difficult to be explained, because the analyses revealed that point-diversity in ground water was rather low, and at increasing values of regional species richness, reached a plateau. This observation supports the coarse-grained role of truncated food webs and oligotrophy, potentially reflected in competition for food resources among co-occurring species, in shaping groundwater species diversity at the local scale. Alpha-diversity resulted decoupled from γ-diversity, suggesting that


Ground Water, Species Richness, Stygobionts, Crustacea, Spatial Scale

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Hydrobiologia, Vol. 653 (2010-07-01).