Cave Communities and Species Interactions
Despite subterranean communities being relatively simple, their precise characterization still represents an interesting ecological challenge. This is mostly because, due to the inaccessibility of most subterranean habitats, the spatial boundaries and the species composition of the communities are difficult to define. In this chapter, we describe the general structure and composition of a cave community, keeping in mind different theoretical approaches. We discuss how spatial and temporal turnover occur within most cave biocoenosis, leading to complex species interactions among the resident species. Particular attention is paid to characterizing the ecological niche and the interspecific competition dynamics in cave ecosystems, showing how competition often arises from niche overlaps in species exploiting similar resources and microhabitats. The use of caves as model systems to study basic ecological concepts such as communities, niche, and species interactions has great potential for advancing ecological knowledge.
We are grateful to Wolfgang Nentwig for providing insightful comments on an early version of the chapter.
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