The groundwater fauna of the Classical Karst: hydrogeological indicators and descriptors
Brancelj, A., Mori, N., Treu, F. and Stoch, F.
Abstract The Classical Karst (sensu stricto) represents a complex hydro-geomorphological unit as well as one of the best-known karstic systems in the world. For this reason, it was selected as a model area both for applied research and for the conservation of its highly diverse subterranean fauna. With this paper, we aim to provide an overview of groundwater fauna in the phreatic zone of the Classical Karst aquifer, based on all published material along with new surveys, and search for patterns of species distribution within hydrogeological subunits, with a focus on the potential use of species as tracers of hydrological connections and groundwater flowpaths. The Classical Karst, with an area of approximately 750 km2, and adjacent to alluvial and flysch areas provides habitats for 83 stygobionts (accompanied by 16 stygophiles) and is one of the richest hotspots for groundwater fauna across the globe. The rate of endemism within the area is very high (around 50%). Multivariate statistical analyses revealed the faunal turnover between hydrogeological subunits, as well as the effect of water flow regime. Our approach, using species turnover and the species indicator value, allowed us to recognise groups of indicator species, which can be considered as descriptors of aquifer type and habitat structure, as well as water flow regime and groundwater flowpaths.