Date of Award

2013

Document Type

Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)

Department

Biological Sciences

Committee Chair

Bruce Stallsmith

Committee Member

R. O. Lawton

Committee Member

Luciano Matzkin

Subject(s)

Speleology--Alabama--Huntsville., Ecosystem management., Bats., Caves--Alabama--Huntsville.

Abstract

The ecosystem of Shelta Cave in northern Alabama was observed after the removal of gating in the cave entrances--an apparent long-term disturbance to the resident bat population. It is believed that the loss of bats led to a loss of many other organisms, and with the removal of the gate the ecosystem is now recovering. Many biotic and abiotic factors were measured within the cave to try to estimate the current health and better estimate the future of the ecosystem. The cave environment was found to be very stable, while the number of organisms within the cave, most notably bats, were seen to increase in the years after gate removal. This study provides a glimpse into an unusual ecosystem and can form the base for more focused studies on cave ecology.

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