Vulnerability of Proteus and groundwater
Conservation of Proteus and other endemic cave animals is not merely an attempt to preserve the subterranean biodiversity, with cave animals we share the most important resource of fresh water – groundwater.
During seasonal flooding, some Proteus get washed out of their subterranean environment. Through this research we became involved in a rescue mission.
Proteus is restricted to its aquatic cave habitat. However, during seasonal flooding, some individuals get washed out of their subterranean environment. While this is a natural phenomenon, it is obvious that all these individuals present a constant loss to their population. These animals are often deposited on temporarily flooded fields and may survive for up to several weeks, but when the high water retreats, most of them find their end by drying up on fields. Some are carried further into superficial streams where they are preyed upon by fish or birds. Of course, this periodic loss has been well balanced through the evolution; a concern is raised when effects of global climate change are considered: timing, frequency and magnitude of flood events are expected to be changed.
The Tular Cave Laboratory has extensively studied this phenomenon since 2008, and documented over 30 cases in Slovenia. All animals were found by chance and reported by local people - sometimes found them even in their cellars. Through this research we unexpectedly became involved in a rescue mission: 16 of these animals were saved and returned to their source population, for other it was already too late...
Read more on washed-out Proteus