Biodiversity and conservation of subterranean fauna of Portuguese karst. Ph.D. thesis, University of Aveiro


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October 2012


This research is a contribution to the study of subterranean biodiversity in karst areas of Portugal, towards its conservation. The relative inaccessibility of the subterranean environment is a challenge for the study of its fauna, often accessible only in caves but more widely distributed. The subterranean animals are among the most rare, threatened and worldwide underprotected, often by the simple fact of being unknown. Karst areas of Portugal occupy a considerable part of the territory and harbor more than 2000 caves. The complex biogeographical history of the Iberian Peninsula allowed the survival of several relict arthropod refugees in the subterranean environment. Subterranean invertebrates have been ignored, as for as the protection of karst systems are concerned in Portugal, largely because knowledge was scarce and disorganized. Reviewing all the bibliographic sources about subterranean fauna from Portugal and listing troglobiont and stygobiont species and locations, was essential to understand the state of knowledge of species richness and the biogeography and conservation status for the studied areas. In order to understand subterranean biodiversity patterns in karst areas from Portugal, one year of intense fieldwork was performed in more than 40 caves from 14 karst units. Several new species for science were discovered and 7 taxa comprising 2 new genera and 5 new species were described. Bearing in mind that spatial distribution of subterranean species is crucial to ecological research and conservation, the distribution of hypogean species, from Portuguese karst areas, was mapped using geographic information systems. Also, its subterranean richness was compared with other areas of the world and missing species were estimated on a regional scale. The subterranean biodiversity patterns were analyzed, and several factors were tested to explain richness patterns. Evapotranspiration and the consequent high productivity on the surface may be determinant in the species richness in the different karst units of


Biologia, Grutas, Invertebrados, Biodiversidade

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