Cave Ecology pp 435-447 | Cite as

Subterranean Biodiversity in Ferruginous Landscapes

  • Rodrigo Lopes FerreiraEmail author
  • Marcus Paulo Alves de Oliveira
  • Marconi Souza Silva
Part of the Ecological Studies book series (ECOLSTUD, volume 235)


The iron ore formations and their caves are among the most unknown ecosystems in the world. These formations of Cambrian rocks cover at least 5% of the Earth’s surface and occur in spots distributed mainly in Brazil, Australia, India, and South Africa. In Brazil, the two largest ferruginous formations, Carajás and Iron Quadrangle, present distinct speleological, ecological, and biological traits. However, the caves share some features, such as their advanced age, occurrence relatively close to the surface, and their connection to several small-interconnected voids in the canga formation. The ecological and evolutionary importance of the ferruginous voids is expressed in the great diversity of fauna they harbor, including relict and endemic species, many of them troglobites. In addition, the underground biodiversity in these ecosystems is greater than that observed in other lithologies in Brazil. However, despite this uniqueness, these ecosystems have been threatened by anthropic activities of mineral exploration and urban expansion, requiring studies and emergency conservation actions.



We are grateful to Ana Clara Moreira Viana for producing the figure regarding the schematic profile of the ferruginous habitats. We are also thankful to the whole team of the Center of Studies on Subterranean Biology from the Federal University of Lavras for their assistance in several field works in ferrugineous caves. We are finally grateful to all institutions that supported distinct research projects regarding ferrugineous cave fauna, providing funds, scholarships, and infrastructure (CNPq—Conselho Nacional de Desenvolvimento Cientifico e Tecnológico; FAPEMIG—Fundação de Amparo à Pesquisa do Estado de Minas Gerais; CAPES—Coordenação de Aperfeiçoamento de Pessoal de Nível Superior; CECAV—Centro Nacional de Pesquisa e Conservação de Cavernas; UFLA—Universidade Federal de Lavras and VALE company).


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Copyright information

© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Rodrigo Lopes Ferreira
    • 1
    • 2
    Email author
  • Marcus Paulo Alves de Oliveira
    • 2
  • Marconi Souza Silva
    • 1
  1. 1.Centro de Estudos em Biologia Subterrânea, Departamento de BiologiaUniversidade Federal de LavrasLavrasBrazil
  2. 2.Programa de Pós-graduação em Ecologia Aplicada, Departamento de BiologiaUniversidade Federal de LavrasLavrasBrazil

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