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  • Titill er á ensku Biological diversity in Icelandic groundwater fissures
  • Meistara
  • Iceland has an abundance of fissures that are parallel to the Mid-Atlantic ridge where bedrock cracks as a result of continental rifting. In some areas fissures penetrate the aquifer and expose the groundwater within the bedrock. The main objective of the study was to measure the biological diversity in groundwater fissures in Iceland. A large part of the substrate in fissures is rock wall and they often reach great depth. As a result, the sampling sites were at variable depth on both rock wall as well as fissure’s bottom. The present study was constrained to macrozoobenthos, while presence or absence of fish was also noted. Invertebrates were found to be living within and around a biofilm that was mostly made of Cyanobacteria and diatoms. Invertebrate assemblages were studied in three fissures: Silfra and Flosagjá in SW Iceland and Stekkjagjá in NE Iceland. All samples and measurements were acquired by scuba diving.
    Invertebrate assemblages in fissures varied significantly between geographical regions in regards to taxa richness, density and diversity. All crustacean groups were in significantly greater densities in NE Iceland while chirononmids were found in similar densities in both geographical regions. A closer inspection revealed differences in chironomid assemblages as Arctopelopia sp. was only found in NE Iceland while Diamesa zernyi gr. was found in significantly greater densities in SW Iceland. Assemblages in fissures in the same region were similar except for differences in densities of cladocerans. Chydorus sp. was found in high densities and is the most common cladoceran in Flosagjá while it was almost absent from Silfra and Alona werestschagini, the second most common cladoceran in Flosagjá, was entirely absent from Silfra.
    Within fissures most taxa were fairly evenly distributed regardless of physical habitat (e.g. depth, rock wall vs. rock bottom). Biofilm mats cover the entire substrate in fissures. These mats are made from Cyanobacteria and benthic diatoms, which are successful under low light conditions and may provide shelter, food and a substrate for animals both at great depth and on rock walls. Rock walls in fissures also have clefts and shelves that may act like bottom while the bottom in fissures is made up of rock rubble which often has vertical or near vertical parts depending on how rocks are positioned. These factors seem to “wipe out” the heterogeneity of the physical habitat and make it more homogenous and this may result in the even distribution of most taxa within fissures. A few species were however found in significant differences in response to depth and rock wall vs. bottom. The chironomid species Orthocladius frigidus was found in significantly greater densities at shallow depth (4 m) in Flosagjá and Cricotopus tibialis was found in significantly greater densities at shallow depth (2 m) in Stekkjagjá. These species are commonly found in the littoral zone in lakes and possibly cope better with surf conditions in shallow water. In Flosagjá Ostracods were found in significantly greater densities on the bottom than on rock wall. Suitable food resources for ostracods, which feed primarily on detritus, may accumulate more readily at bottom.
    One species, Eucyclops borealis (Copeoda, Cyclopoida, Eucyclopinae), was documented for the first time in Iceland. This species has previously been documented in Alaska.

  • National Geographic Society
    Nýsköpunarsjóður námsmanna
    Waterproof International
    Háskólinn á Hólum
  • 15.2.2016

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