1067-4136/03/3404- $25.00 © 2003
Russian Journal of Ecology, Vol. 34, No. 4, 2003, pp. 231–235. Translated from Ekologiya, No. 4, 2003, pp. 261–266.
Original Russian Text Copyright © 2003 by Khizhnyak, Tausheva, Berezikova, Nesterenko, Rogozin.
Karst cavities (caves) are formed in the depths of
mountain massifs and are unique underground ecologi-
cal niches. The total length of an underground system
may be as large as 563 km; depth, more than 1600 m;
and volume, tens of millions of cubic meters (Tsykin
and Tsykina, 1978). In caves located deep under the
ground, speciﬁc microclimatic conditions are formed:
the absence of light, constant low temperature
), and high humidity (about 100%). This
determines the formation of speciﬁc associations of liv-
ing organisms, which exist in relative isolation from
aboveground ecosystems for a long time.
Caves are numerous and widespread; as many as
caves are known to date (Dublyanskii and Andrei-
chuk, 1991). However, their biology has been poorly
studied. Little is known about the structure and func-
tions of underground ecosystems. It is known that
microorganisms, the main decomposers of organic mat-
ter, are an important component of all ecosystems.
Although microorganisms are necessary for matter
transfer in caves, studies in this ﬁeld are fragmentary.
This is especially true for the caves located in Russia
and the former Soviet republics. Most studies have
been performed in gypsum caves in Central Asia and
Arkhangelsk oblast, which drastically differ from the
caves of Middle Siberia (Maltsev
, 1997; Semiko-
lennylh, 1997; Semikolennylh and Sogonov, 2000).
Over 230 karst cavities in limestone and limestone–
dolomite conglomerates are known in Middle Siberia.
Their lengths vary from several hundred meters to
47 km (cave Bol’shaya Oreshnaya). The cavities are
located in the spurs of the eastern Sayan Mountains and
Kuznetsk Ala Tau, and some of them are as old as
25 million years. Many caves are often visited by tour-
ists or serve as places for sports activities and excur-
, 1974). For a long time, biological
studies in these caves were restricted to descriptions of
their fauna. In 1997–1998, we obtained the ﬁrst micro-
biological data on the caves located near Krasnoyarsk.
We found that there was a speciﬁc microﬂora, including
bacteria and molds, in these caves. The amounts of
microorganisms in some samples were comparable to
those in forest soils (Khizhnyak
, 1999, 2001).
Here, we summarize the results of the studies on the
count and spectrum of microorganisms living in the
caves of Krasnoyarsk krai and Khakassia.
OBJECTS AND METHODS
Middle Siberian caves may be conventionally
divided into three groups according to the anthropo-
genic loads on them.
(1) Caves with a large inﬂow of anthropogenic
organic matter resulting from frequent visits of people
(caves Karaul’naya-2, Ledyanaya, Bol’shaya Oreshnaya,
Badzheiskaya, Zhenevskaya, and Yashchik Pandory).
(2) Caves with a relatively small inﬂow of organic
matter (caves Torgashinskaya, Kubinskaya, Partizan-
skaya, and Rucheinaya).
(3) Caves in which anthropogenic organic matter is
practically absent (caves Peschanaya and Ledopadnaya).
The microclimatic conditions of the caves studied
(Table 1) are typical of Siberian caves: considerable
seasonal temperature variations occur near the
entrance; somewhat farther from the entrance, air tem-
perature is usually the lowest, and ice and hoarfrost are
accumulated; the temperature increases when going
Psychrophilic and Psychrotolerant Heterotrophic
Microorganisms of Middle Siberian Karst Cavities
S. V. Khizhnyak
, I. V. Tausheva
, A. A. Berezikova
E. V. Nesterenko
, and D. Yu. Rogozin
Krasnoyarsk State Agrarian University, pr. Mira 88, Krasnoyarsk, 660001 Russia
Institute of Biophysics, Siberian Division, Russian Academy of Sciences, Akademgorodok, Krasnoyarsk, 660036 Russia
Received May 27, 2002
—The natural microﬂora of Middle Siberian karst cavities, which comprises psychrotolerant bacteria
and fungi capable of growing at 3–15 and
, respectively, has been studied. Bacteria are ubiquitous in
caves, their count varying from
cells/g ground. The bacteria have been identiﬁed as
, and coryneform bacteria. Fungi have been found in places exposed to increased anthro-
pogenic impact, their count being as large as 10
were dominant fungal genera.
: psychrophilic and psychrotolerant microorganisms, karst cavities, caves, heterotrophic microorganisms.