World Register of marine Cave Species (WoRCS): a new Thematic Species Database for marine and anchialine cave biodiversity
Gerovasileiou, V., Martínez, A., Álvarez, F., Boxshall, G., Humphreys, W., Jaume, .D, Becking, L., Muricy, G., van Hengstum, P., Dekeyzer, S., Decock, W., Vanhoorne, B., Vandepitte, L., Bailly, N. and Iliffe, T.
Research Ideas and Outcomes
Scientific exploration of marine cave environments and anchialine ecosystems over recent
decades has led to outstanding discoveries of novel taxa, increasing our knowledge of
biodiversity. However, biological research on underwater caves has taken place only in a
few areas of the world and relevant information remains fragmented in isolated publications
and databases. This fragmentation makes assessing the conservation status of marine
cave species especially problematic, and this issue should be addressed urgently given the
stresses resulting from planned and rampant development in the coastal zone worldwide.
The goal of the World Register of marine Cave Species (WoRCS) initiative is to create a
comprehensive taxonomic and ecological database of known species from marine caves
and anchialine systems worldwide and to present this as a Thematic Species Database
(TSD) of the World Register of marine Species (WoRMS). WoRCS will incorporate
ecological data (e.g., type of environment, salinity regimes, and cave zone) as well as
geographical information on the distribution of species in cave and anchialine
environments. Biodiversity data will be progressively assembled from individual database
sources at regional, national or local levels, as well as from literature sources (estimate:
>20,000 existing records of cave-dwelling species scattered in several databases).
Information will be organized in the WoRCS database following a standard glossary based
on existing terminology. Cave-related information will be managed by the WoRCS thematic
editors with all data dynamically linked to WoRMS and its team of taxonomic editors. In
order to mobilize data into global biogeographic databases, a Gazetteer of the Marine and
Anchialine Caves of the World will be established. The presence records of species could
be eventually georeferenced for submission to the Ocean Biogeographic Information
System (OBIS) and constitute an important dataset for biogeographical and climate change
studies on marine caves and anchialine systems.