15 New Species Discovered in Unexplored Sierra de Guadarrama Biotope

The species were described by biologists from the University of Navarra in a project coordinated by the University of Alcalá de Henares in Madrid

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15/03/18 12:13 Laura Juampérez

A group of biologists from the University of Alcalá de Henares (the coordinating researcher’s university), the University Navarra (with two zoologists who analyzed the invertebrates), and the Universities of Almería, Granada and Valencia have provided the first description of the biodiversity hidden in a virtually unexplored biotope in Sierra de Guadarrama National Park, located in the Provinces of Madrid and Segovia, the latest addition to Spain’s national park system, in 2013.

In this landscape, specifically among the scree or accumulated rock on the mountain slopes, the scientists set up 33 sampling stations at a depth of one meter with the aim of collecting the invertebrates living in the gaps between the rocks. During the two-year study, a total of 157,000 specimens were collected, 48% of which were collembolas or springtails, and the rest belonged to other groups of arthropods, such as arachnids, myriapods (centipedes, millipedes), crustaceans (woodlice) and insects (flies, beetles, ants, crickets, etc.).

“Among the collembolas, we identified individuals of 59 different species. At least 15 of them were new to science, because they had not been described anywhere on the planet before”, according to two of the authors, Enrique Baquero and Rafael Jordana, the zoologists from the School of Sciences at the University of Navarra responsible for describing the new species.

The two experts went on to say, “All these species have adapted to live in this specific biotope, which is similar in some ways to the conditions found in caves, i.e., lack of light, high humidity and minimal temperature variations, but with the unique feature that it provides more nutrients than the soil”.

Climate change bioindicators

Collembas are small invertebrates (arthropods) that have very short reproductive cycles and breathe through their skin. “That’s what makes them so sensitive to any change in the environment around them. By studying these creatures, we can learn relatively quickly how they are affected by alterations such as increased temperatures and reduced precipitation”, pointed out Baquero, the Director of the Master’s Degree Program in Biodiversity, Landscape and Sustainable Development at the University.

While some ecosystems have been studied extensively, this biotope, known as the mesovoid shallow substratum (MSS), is relatively new to science. Made up of colluvial deposits (rocky materials that eroded from the parent rock, were carried away and then deposited), this biotope was first discovered in other European mountain settings in the early 1980s. Experts are now of the opinion that the species living here could be used as true bioindicators of the environmental quality in sensitive areas such as natural parks.

The study, “Distinctive Collembola Communities in the Mesovoid Shallow Substratum: First Data for the Sierra de Guadarrama National Park (Central Spain) and a Description of Two New Species of Orchesella (Entomobryidae)”, received support from the Autonomous Organization of National Parks and the participation of experts in different fields. The results were also published in one of the journals with the greatest impact in its specialized area, PLOS One, which has an IF of 2.8.

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