Journal Article

The chemoautotrophically based Movile Cave groundwater ecosystem, a hotspot of subterranean biodiversity

Brad, T., Iepure, S. and Sarbu, S.M.

Record Number:
13, 128
Abstract: Movile Cave hosts one of the world’s most diverse subsurface invertebrate communities. In the absence of matter and energy input from the surface, this ecosystem relies entirely on in situ primary productivity by chemoautotrophic microorganisms. The energy source for these microorganisms is the oxidation of hydrogen sulfide provided continuously from the deep thermomineral aquifer, alongside methane, and ammonium. The microbial biofilms that cover the water surface, the cave walls, and the sediments, along with the free-swimming microorganisms, represent the food that protists, rotifers, nematodes, gastropods, and crustacean rely on. Voracious water-scorpions, leeches, and planarians form the peak of the aquatic food web in Movile Cave. The terrestrial community is even more diverse. It is composed of various species of worms, isopods, pseudoscorpions, spiders, centipedes, millipedes, springtails, diplurans, and beetles. An updated list of invertebrate species thriving in Movile Cave is provided herein. With 53 invertebrate species (21 aquatic and 32 terrestrial), of which 38 are endemic for this unusual, but fascinating environment, Movile Cave is the first known chemosynthesis-based groundwater ecosystem. Therefore, Movile Cave deserves stringent attention and protection. Keywords: Movile Cave; Romania; subterranean biodiversity; chemoautotrophically based; groundwater ecosystem
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