Integrated Cave Entrance Community
and Cave Environment Monitoring
Importance / Issues
The distinctive biodiversity and often spectacular geologic formations in caves depend on unique and specific environmental conditions. Despite their apparent stability, cave environments often show particular sensitivity to ongoing changes in both atmospheric and terrestrial realms (e.g., climate and atmospheric composition change). These changes affect temperatures, microclimates, carbon dioxide concentrations, and the amount and type of organic input into caves. The geological processes in caves can be affected by all these changes, as well as by local effects of visitor use. Caves are truly among the most sensitive natural resources to anthropogenic impacts.
These communities have unique biota, including a number of global endemics. For example, macroinvertebrate troglobites are known only from caves. There are about seven to eight macroinvertebrate species and one subspecies known only from the main cave at Oregon Caves. Lava Beds has at least three troglobitic species only known from its lava tube caves, including a troglobitic isopod (Trichoniscidae), pseudoscorpion, and dipluran.
At Lava Beds, there are also ferns and both vascular and non-vascular plants that are mostly or entirely restricted to the uniquely cool microclimates at cave entrances. These cave entrance communities can be highly vulnerable to human impacts, such as locally introduced organic matter and alterations of cave structure and microclimates. Even such seemingly minor stresses as lint from visitors' clothing can affect microbial populations, which are the main basis of the macroinvertebrate food chain.
Protocol Development & Status
Preliminary Monitoring Objectives
Lava Beds National Monument