Groundwater is a crucial resource for humans and the environment, but its global human demand currently exceeds available volumes by 3.5 times. Climate change is expected to exacerbate this situation by increasing the frequency of droughts along with human impacts on groundwater ecosystems. Despite prior research on the quantitative effects of climate change on groundwater, the direct impacts on groundwater biodiversity, especially obligate groundwater species, remain largely unexplored. Therefore, investigating the potential impacts of climate change, including groundwater temperature changes, is crucial for the survival of obligate groundwater species. This study aimed to determine the thermal niche breadth of the crustacean amphipod species Niphargus longicaudatus by using the chronic method. We found that N. longicaudatus has a wide thermal niche with a natural performance range of 7-9 degrees C, which corresponds to the thermal regime this species experiences within its distribution range in Italy. The observed range of preferred temperature (PT) was different from the mean annual temperature of the sites from which the species has been collected, challenging the idea that groundwater species are only adapted to narrow temperature ranges. Considering the significant threats of climate change to groundwater ecosystems, these findings provide crucial information for the conservation of obligate groundwater species, suggesting that some of them may be more resilient to temperature changes than previously thought. Understanding the fundamental thermal niche of these species can inform conservation efforts and management strategies to protect groundwater ecosystems and their communities.
Di Cicco, Mattia
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