Disentagling the carbon distribution in karst aquifers: the significance for vertical extent of groundwater biota (Carbon-KARST)


Postojna Cave, Slovenia

Aquifers are generally perceived as food-limited ecosystems as they are devoid of phototrophic primary production. This is reflected in a low concentration of organic carbon, that togheter with the reducing of nutrients and oxygen cause a decline of favorable conditions for subterranean life with depth. Consequently, the groundwater biota follows a vertical spatial distribution associated with the availability of nutrients. The true food-limitation of aquifers is currently largely questioned, since the diversity of biota has been documented to be high in several aquifers. Food resources rich underground from the soil bellow the litter zone in forested areas by water percolating trough fissures and creates oligotrophic conditions favouring the development of a rich subterranean populations. Carbon-KARST project aims to determine the relation among the concentration of organic carbon from shallow and deep subterranean habitats and the spatial distribution of groundwater communities in two karst aquifers from Kalkalpen, Austria and Postojna area, Slovenia.

Carbon-KARST will be performed at two eLTER sites, Postojna Cave in Slovenia working in collaboration with Tanja Pipan from Karst Research Institute, Postojna, Slovenia and in Kalkalpen National Park in Upper Austria, in collaboration with Thomas Thomas Dirnböck from Umweltbundesamt, Austria).

Kalkalpen National Park, Austria

The project Carbon-KARST is financed by eLTER H2020 program, an EC-funded project (GA: 654359 – H2020 INFRAIA call 2014-2015).