Alien species are a significant threat to natural ecosystems and human economies. Despite global efforts to address this challenge, the documented number of alien species is rapidly increasing worldwide. However, the magnitude of the impact of alien species may vary significantly across habitats. For example, some habitats are naturally less prone to biological invasions due to stringent abiotic and biotic characteristics, selecting for a limited number of introduced species possessing traits closely related to the native organisms. Subterranean ecosystems are quintessential examples of habitats with strong environmental filters (e.g. lack of light and scarcity of food), driving convergent adaptations in species that have successfully adapted to life in darkness. Despite these stringent environmental constraints, the number of records of alien species in subterranean ecosystems has increased in recent decades, but the relevant literature remains largely fragmented and mostly anecdotal. Therefore, even though caves are generally considered very fragile ecosystems, their susceptibility to impacts by alien species remains untested other than for some very specific cases. We provide the first systematic literature survey to synthesise available knowledge on alien species in subterranean ecosystems globally. This review is supported by a database summarising the available literature, aiming to identify gaps in the distribution and spread of alien invertebrate species in subterranean habitats, and laying the foundations for future management practices and interventions. First, we quantitatively assessed the current knowledge of alien species in subterranean ecosystems to shed light on broader questions about taxonomic biases, geographical patterns, modes of dispersal, pathways for introductions and potential impacts. Secondly, we collected species-specific traits for each recorded alien species and tested whether subterranean habitats act as ecological filters for their establishment, favouring organisms with pre-adaptive traits suitable for subterranean life. We found information on the presence of 246 subterranean alien species belonging to 18 different classes. The dominant alien species were invertebrates, especially insects and arachnids. Most species were reported in terrestrial subterranean habitats from all continents except Antarctica. Palaearctic and Nearctic biogeographic regions represented the main source of alien species. The main routes of introductions into the recipient country are linked to commercial activities (84.3% of cases for which there was information available). Negative impacts have been documented for a small number of case studies (22.7%), mostly related to increased competition with native species. For a limited number of case studies (6.1%), management strategies were reported but the effectiveness of these interventions has rarely been quantified. Accordingly, information on costs is very limited. Approximately half of the species in our database can be considered established in subterranean habitats. According to our results, the presence of suitable traits grants access to the stringent environmental filter posed by subterranean environments, facilitating establishment in the new habitat. We recommend that future studies deepen the understanding of invasiveness into subterranean habitats, raising public and scientific community awareness of preserving these fragile ecosystems.

Aliens in caves: the global dimension of biological invasions in subterranean ecosystems

Nicolosi, Giuseppe
First
;
Mammola, Stefano;Isaia, Marco
Last
2023-01-01

Abstract

Alien species are a significant threat to natural ecosystems and human economies. Despite global efforts to address this challenge, the documented number of alien species is rapidly increasing worldwide. However, the magnitude of the impact of alien species may vary significantly across habitats. For example, some habitats are naturally less prone to biological invasions due to stringent abiotic and biotic characteristics, selecting for a limited number of introduced species possessing traits closely related to the native organisms. Subterranean ecosystems are quintessential examples of habitats with strong environmental filters (e.g. lack of light and scarcity of food), driving convergent adaptations in species that have successfully adapted to life in darkness. Despite these stringent environmental constraints, the number of records of alien species in subterranean ecosystems has increased in recent decades, but the relevant literature remains largely fragmented and mostly anecdotal. Therefore, even though caves are generally considered very fragile ecosystems, their susceptibility to impacts by alien species remains untested other than for some very specific cases. We provide the first systematic literature survey to synthesise available knowledge on alien species in subterranean ecosystems globally. This review is supported by a database summarising the available literature, aiming to identify gaps in the distribution and spread of alien invertebrate species in subterranean habitats, and laying the foundations for future management practices and interventions. First, we quantitatively assessed the current knowledge of alien species in subterranean ecosystems to shed light on broader questions about taxonomic biases, geographical patterns, modes of dispersal, pathways for introductions and potential impacts. Secondly, we collected species-specific traits for each recorded alien species and tested whether subterranean habitats act as ecological filters for their establishment, favouring organisms with pre-adaptive traits suitable for subterranean life. We found information on the presence of 246 subterranean alien species belonging to 18 different classes. The dominant alien species were invertebrates, especially insects and arachnids. Most species were reported in terrestrial subterranean habitats from all continents except Antarctica. Palaearctic and Nearctic biogeographic regions represented the main source of alien species. The main routes of introductions into the recipient country are linked to commercial activities (84.3% of cases for which there was information available). Negative impacts have been documented for a small number of case studies (22.7%), mostly related to increased competition with native species. For a limited number of case studies (6.1%), management strategies were reported but the effectiveness of these interventions has rarely been quantified. Accordingly, information on costs is very limited. Approximately half of the species in our database can be considered established in subterranean habitats. According to our results, the presence of suitable traits grants access to the stringent environmental filter posed by subterranean environments, facilitating establishment in the new habitat. We recommend that future studies deepen the understanding of invasiveness into subterranean habitats, raising public and scientific community awareness of preserving these fragile ecosystems.
2023
98
3
849
867
https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/brv.12933
adaptive traits; allochthonous species; conservation biology; invasiveness; subterranean alien species; subterranean biology
Nicolosi, Giuseppe; Mammola, Stefano; Verbrugge, Laura; Isaia, Marco
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Utilizza questo identificativo per citare o creare un link a questo documento: https://hdl.handle.net/2318/1886726
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