The most important underground biodiversity hotspot in the world is the Bue Marino cave in Sardinia

The most important underground biodiversity hotspot in the world is the Bue Marino cave in Sardinia
The most important underground biodiversity hotspot in the world is the Bue Marino cave in Sardinia
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Italian Speleological Society to safeguard the karst areas, so important for drinking water and the survival of many species

[4 Novembre 2022]

While the world is increasingly grappling with the scarcity of drinking water resources and climate change, the Italian Speleological Society (SSI) recalls that “Natural caves provide access to karst ecosystems which, although invisible to most, retain high quality water and biodiversity. The underground waters that flow into the karst aquifers constitute about 40% of the sources of drinking water for our country, where the caves discovered and documented by speleologists are over 40,000, of which about 40 are open to tourism and therefore a resource also for the local economies. In the karst caves live over 3,600 animal species known so far and which are very vulnerable to pollution, over-exploitation of the soil and mismanagement.

In Italy, numerous Parks and Protected Areas with karst connotations have been established, and the “caves not yet exploited for tourism”, which often contain important underground water bodies, are recognized as habitats 8310 by the Natura 2000 Network, the main instrument of the policy of European Union for the conservation of biodiversity. But to safeguard these environmental resources, which are so important for the survival of many species, it is increasingly urgent to adopt multidisciplinary environmental monitoring approaches to safeguard karst areas and the need to carry out constant and precise environmental monitoring is increasingly urgent. This is why the role of speleologists has become increasingly important in recent years. As they explain to SSI, «These explorers, managing to reach extreme and difficult to access places, support researchers in collecting useful data for disciplines that are also very distant from each other, from hydrogeology to medicine, from biology to engineering of large voids, passing through archeology and astrobiology ».

But for truly effective research and monitoring, a competent and multidisciplinary analytical approach is required, and it is precisely this that was discussed in the 3-day seminar organized by the Italian Speleological Society on monitoring karst environments dedicated to speleologists, scientists, institutions and operators. of the sector, which took place in Sardinia, in Cala Gonone, the locality that hosts the most important treasure trove of underground biodiversity in the Mediterranean: the Bue Marino tourist cave. The seminar and collateral events are promoted by the Italian Speleological Society and sponsored by the Ministry of Ecological Transition, the Autonomous Region of Sardinia, the Province of Nuoro, the Municipality of Dorgali, the National Council of Geologists, the Order of Geologists of Sardinia, the National Order of Biologists, the Italian Society. of Environmental Geology, UIS – International Union of Speleology, Italian Tourist Caves Association.

The director of the seminar, the speleologist Mauro Chiesi, highlighted that “The monitoring of environmental parameters in karst areas presupposes the identification of the correct indicators to be detected, the knowledge and ability to use adequate tools as well as the collection, statistical management and the interpretation of the data collected. With this seminar we began to network the most advanced knowledge of speleology, in a multidisciplinary forum that brought into contact the various professionals involved in the actions of study and protection of karst territories, custodians of unmissable drinking water resources and treasures of biodiversity “

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The Grotta del Bue Marino is internationally famous as the last known breeding site for the monk seal in Italy. With an explored development of over 20 km, it is part of a vast and articulated karst system that extends for over 70 km and covers a total area of ​​almost 29,000 hectares between the municipalities of Baunei, Dorgali and Urzulei. The geosite of community importance is subject to stringent national and European regulations. The cave, already frequented in the Neo-Eneolithic era (about 4000 BC), has been visited by tens of thousands of tourists and speleologists from all over the world for over 50 years. With the aim of enhancing strategic natural sites for the development of tourism services, a primary Source of the local economy, in 2021 the municipal administration of Dorgali commissioned an Environmental Impact Study on the Northern Branch of the Grotta del Bue Marino, aimed at reopening of this section of the cavity, to ensure safety conditions for the overall use of the site. They remind the SSI that «Before this study, as many as 50 animal species were reported in the Grotta del Bue Marino, of which 28 were considered underground, aquatic or terrestrial; this analysis already placed the cavity at the top for underground biodiversity in Italy and in the world: caves with 25 or more species are in fact considered “biodiversity hotspots” worldwide (in 2019 only 24 of these caves were known worldwide , of which 16 in the temperate zone). During the latest monitoring, at least 21 other species were collected and identified, mainly marine (and in a small part linked to anchialine waters) that had never been detected before and are added to the previous extensive list ».

According to Fabio Stoch, an internationally renowned biospeleologist who participated in this latest environmental impact study: “There is no biodiversity hotspot in the world comparable to the Bue Marino caves, we did not think that such a result was possible in the Mediterranean area, instead, data in hand, it ranks first among the caves richest in fauna and biodiversity “.

Among the Sardinian studies presented at the Cala Gonone seminar there are also the multidisciplinary ones carried out in the karst aquifer of Monte Albo thanks to the support of biospeleologists and speleosubers, and that on the vulnerability of the drinking water resources of the Su Gologone springs, Source of daily water supply of great quality for a population which, at certain times of the year, exceeds 10,000 people.

The article is in Italian

Tags: important underground biodiversity hotspot world Bue Marino cave Sardinia