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Tanja Pipan, 2005
Epikarst – A Promising Habitat
Copepod Fauna, its diversity and ecology: a case study from Slovenia (Europe)

Zalozba ZRC Publications, Carsologica Series
Paperback, 101 pages, 21 figures, 15 tables, 10 appendices, 170 x 240 mm.

Order No./Bestell Nr./Art. No.: 00902

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The book represents a detailed study of the fauna of drips and drip pools in six caves in Slovenia (Postojnska jama, Pivka jama, Cırna jama, Sıkocjanske jame, Dimnice & Zıupanova jama). Drips and drip pools are important because they are just about the only way of assessing the epikarst community. Using a special sampling device, it was possible to sample individual drips for extended periods of time. A total of 37 species of copepods were found in drips and drip pools. Significant differences in the fauna between drips and pools, presumably because of differential survival and reproduction in pools were found. Somewhat surprisingly it was found that the kind of pool, e.g., mud-bottomed compared to calcite bottomed, made little difference.
An unexpected result that the similarity of the epikarst copepod fauna is unrelated to geographic distance is discussed. Caves a few kilometers apart have no more similar fauna than caves tens of kilometers apart. In fact, similarities are generally low among caves, implying that that any similarity among the epikarst fauna must occur at smaller distances. This is part of a recurring theme of heterogeneity in epikarst copepod abundance and composition, both spatial and temporal.
The core of the study is multivariate statistical analysis of the environmental determinants of copepod species composition and abundance, which begins to make sense of the incredible variability of copepod fauna. The primary statistical tool was canonical correspondence analysis, a widely used procedure that allows a detailed interpretation of the relationship between copepod species, environmental variables, and caves.
Also of considerable interest were Pipan’s estimates of species richness of the epikarst copepod fauna. Estimating species richness is a very important research topic in the general field of biodiversity studies, and she utilizes the now standard species accumulation curves and “Chao2” estimates of species richness. As an example, using the stygobiotic copepods collected at individual drips, the “Chao2” estimate is 41 species, of which 23 have been observed. At least this puts some plausible bounds on the incredible species richness of this fauna.

«All in all, (this) study represents a major step forward in understanding epikarst communities, and used technique of continuous sampling of drips and the concomitant measurement of environmental parameters proved most illuminating. It probably raises as many questions as it answers, and this helps to set the stage for future research.»
– from the review by prof. David C. Culver in Subterranean Biology, 2005


TANJA PIPAN is a Research Fellow at the Karst Research Institute of the Scientific Research Centre of the Slovenian Academy of Sciences and Arts (Postojna, Slovenia). She has been actively working on karst areas of SW Slovenia since 1995. At the Biotechnical Faculty, Department of Biology, University of Ljubljana she gained her master’s degree and doctoral dissertation in 2003. Carrying out extensive systematic research of the stygobiotic fauna, she contributed the fundamental knowledge to the understanding of the life within the epikarst zone. The value for her scientific contribution is demonstrated by the fact that she received a grant from the Scientific Research Centre of the Slovenian Academy of Sciences and Arts for important scientific achievements in the field of research conducted in the ZRC SAZU and as the most significant young researcher from ZRC SAZU for scientific work in 2003. She also received the SIBIOS (Société Internationale de Biospéologie) Prize for the best Presentation during the XVIIth International Symposium of Biospeleology at Raipur, India in 2004.