Caves and karst areas contain unusual organisms in a very specialized habitat. Some organisms live only in caves, where they can be located and characterized. Other species live in the small cracks and crevices that exist between the cave passages, where scientists cannot go. Understanding the rarity of the organisms and the fragility of their habitats requires that we learn about karst species, their ecosystems, and their sensitivity to environmental contamination. The KWI is developing methodologies to assess karst ecosystems. The unique adaptations of cave dwellers provide insight into the evolution of the organisms in an environment free from a multitude of environmental variables. From this information we can better understand the development of sensory organs, the use of nutrients, and the interaction of organisms within the karst ecosystem.
KWI members have conducted research on the environmental factors influencing the distribution of cave-dwelling organisms. Results can be accessed at the links below.