Caves are the best studied aquatic subterranean habitat, but there is a wide variety of these habitats, ranging in depth below the surface and size of the spaces (pore or habitat size). Both factors are important in setting limits to species composition and richness. In addition to caves, among the most important shallow aquatic subterranean habitats are the hyporheal (underflow of rivers and streams), the hypotelminorheal (very superficial drainages with water exiting in seeps), epikarst, and calcrete aquifers. Although it is little studied, both body size and species composition in the different habitats is different. Because of high levels of endemism and difficulty in access, no subterranean habitats are well sampled, even caves. However, there are enough data for robust generalizations about some geographic patterns. Individual hotspot caves are concentrated in the Dinaric region of southern Europe, and overall, tropical regions have fewer obligate aquatic cave dwellers (stygobionts). In all subterranean aquatic habitats, regional diversity is much higher than local diversity, but local diversity (especially single cave diversity) may be a useful predictor of regional species richness. In Europe there is a ridge of high aquatic subterranean species richness basically extending east from the French–Spanish border. Its cause may be either high productivity or that long-term temperature oscillations are at a minimum. With increased collecting and analysis, global and continental trends should become clearer.
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