Journal Article

Biodiversity from caves and other subterranean habitats of Georgia, USA

Zigler, K.S., Niemiller, M.L., Stephen, C.D.R., Ayala, B.N. Milne, M.A., Gladstone, N.S., Engel, A.S., Jensen, J.B., Camp, C.D., Ozier, J.C. and Cressler, A.

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Journal of Cave and Karst Studies
We provide an annotated checklist of species recorded from caves and other subterranean habitats in the state of Georgia, USA. We report 281 species (228 invertebrates and 53 vertebrates), including 51 troglobionts (cave-obligate species), from more than 150 sites (caves, springs, and wells). Endemism is high; of the troglobionts, 17 (33 % of those known from the state) are endemic to Georgia and seven (14 %) are known from a single cave. We identified three biogeographic clusters of troglobionts. Two clusters are located in the northwestern part of the state, west of Lookout Mountain in Lookout Valley and east of Lookout Mountain in the Valley and Ridge. In addition, there is a group of troglobionts found only in the southwestern corner of the state and associated with the Upper Floridan Aquifer. At least two dozen potentially undescribed species have been collected from caves; clarifying the taxonomic status of these organisms would improve our understanding of cave biodiversity in the state. Conservation concerns related to species found in Georgia caves are significant, with fourteen species (including 13 vertebrates) considered “High Priority Species” under the Georgia State Wildlife Action Plan, many of these species have additional state or federal protections. In addition, 17 invertebrate troglobionts (33 % of those known in the state) are considered “Critically Imperiled” by Nature- Serve. Several biologically important caves are not protected, these are an important conservation concern. However, remarkably, around one third of all caves in the state are on protected lands, including seven of the eight caves known to host ten or more troglobionts.
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