The great diversity of the invertebrate community thriving in the deepest sections of the gypsum karst system of the Monte Conca sinkhole (Sicily, Italy) suggests the existence of a complex food web associated with a sulfidic pool and chemoautotrophic microbial activity. To shed light on the peculiarity of this biological assemblage, we investigated the species composition of the invertebrate community and surveyed trophic interactions by stable isotope analysis. The faunal investigation conducted by visual censuses and hand sampling methods led to the discovery of a structured biological assemblage composed of both subterranean specialized and non-specialized species, encompassing all trophic levels. The community was remarkably diverse in the sulfidic habitat and differed from other non-sulfidic habitats within the cave in terms of stable isotope ratios. This pattern suggests the presence of a significant chemoautotrophic support by the microbial communities to the local food web, especially during the dry season when the organic input from the surface is minimal. However, when large volumes of water enter the cave due to local agricultural activities (i.e., irrigation) or extreme precipitation events, the sulfidic habitat of the cave is flooded, inhibiting the local autotrophic production and threatening the conservation of the entire ecosystem.

Sulfidic Habitats in the Gypsum Karst System of Monte Conca (Italy) Host a Chemoautotrophically Supported Invertebrate Community

Messina M. A.;Petralia S.;
2022-01-01

Abstract

The great diversity of the invertebrate community thriving in the deepest sections of the gypsum karst system of the Monte Conca sinkhole (Sicily, Italy) suggests the existence of a complex food web associated with a sulfidic pool and chemoautotrophic microbial activity. To shed light on the peculiarity of this biological assemblage, we investigated the species composition of the invertebrate community and surveyed trophic interactions by stable isotope analysis. The faunal investigation conducted by visual censuses and hand sampling methods led to the discovery of a structured biological assemblage composed of both subterranean specialized and non-specialized species, encompassing all trophic levels. The community was remarkably diverse in the sulfidic habitat and differed from other non-sulfidic habitats within the cave in terms of stable isotope ratios. This pattern suggests the presence of a significant chemoautotrophic support by the microbial communities to the local food web, especially during the dry season when the organic input from the surface is minimal. However, when large volumes of water enter the cave due to local agricultural activities (i.e., irrigation) or extreme precipitation events, the sulfidic habitat of the cave is flooded, inhibiting the local autotrophic production and threatening the conservation of the entire ecosystem.
2022
Cave-dwelling fauna
Ecosystem conservation
Food web analysis
Gypsum cave
Stable isotope ecology
Sulfide
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Utilizza questo identificativo per citare o creare un link a questo documento: https://hdl.handle.net/20.500.11769/522858
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