Modelling the distribution of stygobionts in the Jura Mountains (eastern France). Implications for the protection of ground waters
Ground waters have exceptional conservation value due to the high endemism of their biota, the high occurrence of species relicts and because they are the second most important reservoir of freshwater after the glaciers. We used habitat-based models to predict the distribution of obligate groundwater species (stygobionts) in the Jura Mountains, eastern France. Current and historical environmental variables were selected to predict the occurrence of 19 stygobionts collected in different groundwater habitats. Species occurrence was weakly correlated with most of the physico-chemical variables and better correlated to habitat type, elevation gradient, hydraulic conductivity and the distance of the last glacial event. We identified two main groups of species, those whose distributions correlated with the last glacial event and those that did not. Our findings suggested that abilities for migrate and opportunities for dispersal using connections among habitats may explain part of these distributions and that specific spatial components should be incorporated in future modelling. We propose the identification of rich-species areas and protection of the complete spectrum of GW habitats as pertinent measures to achieve the stygobitoic persistence.