Earthquakes are among the most destructive natural events. The 6 April 2009, 6.3-Mw earthquake in L'Aquila (Italy) markedly altered the karstic Gran Sasso Aquifer (GSA) hydrogeology and geochemistry. The GSA groundwater invertebrate community is mainly comprised of small-bodied, colourless, blind microcrustaceans. We compared abiotic and biotic data from two pre-earthquake and one post-earthquake complete but non-contiguous hydrological years to investigate the effects of the 2009 earthquake on the dominant copepod component of the obligate groundwater fauna. Our results suggest that the massive earthquake-induced aquifer strain biotriggered a flushing of groundwater fauna, with a dramatic decrease in subterranean species abundance. Population turnover rates appeared to have crashed, no longer replenishing the long-standing communities from aquifer fractures, and the aquifer became almost totally deprived of animal life. Groundwater communities are notorious for their low resilience. Therefore, any major disturbance that negatively impacts survival or reproduction may lead to local extinction of species, most of them being the only survivors of phylogenetic lineages extinct at the Earth surface. Given the ecological key role played by the subterranean fauna as decomposers of organic matter and “ecosystem engineers”, we urge more detailed, long-term studies on the effect of major disturbances to groundwater ecosystems.

Earthquakes trigger the loss of groundwater biodiversity

GALASSI, Diana Maria Paola;Fiasca B.;DI CARLO, PIERO
2014-01-01

Abstract

Earthquakes are among the most destructive natural events. The 6 April 2009, 6.3-Mw earthquake in L'Aquila (Italy) markedly altered the karstic Gran Sasso Aquifer (GSA) hydrogeology and geochemistry. The GSA groundwater invertebrate community is mainly comprised of small-bodied, colourless, blind microcrustaceans. We compared abiotic and biotic data from two pre-earthquake and one post-earthquake complete but non-contiguous hydrological years to investigate the effects of the 2009 earthquake on the dominant copepod component of the obligate groundwater fauna. Our results suggest that the massive earthquake-induced aquifer strain biotriggered a flushing of groundwater fauna, with a dramatic decrease in subterranean species abundance. Population turnover rates appeared to have crashed, no longer replenishing the long-standing communities from aquifer fractures, and the aquifer became almost totally deprived of animal life. Groundwater communities are notorious for their low resilience. Therefore, any major disturbance that negatively impacts survival or reproduction may lead to local extinction of species, most of them being the only survivors of phylogenetic lineages extinct at the Earth surface. Given the ecological key role played by the subterranean fauna as decomposers of organic matter and “ecosystem engineers”, we urge more detailed, long-term studies on the effect of major disturbances to groundwater ecosystems.
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Utilizza questo identificativo per citare o creare un link a questo documento: https://hdl.handle.net/11697/13985
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