World Register of marine Cave Species (WoRCS): a new Thematic Species Database for marine and anchialine cave biodiversity

Vasilis Gerovasileiou, Alejandro Martínez, Fernando Álvarez, Geoff Boxshall, William F. Humphreys, Damià Jaume, L.E. Becking, Guilherme Muricy, Peter J. van Hengstum, Stefanie Dekeyzer, Wim Decock, Bart Vanhoorne, Leen Vandepitte, Nicolas Bailly, Thomas M. Iliffe

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


Scientific exploration of marine cave environments and anchialine ecosystems over recent decades has led to outstanding discoveries of novel taxa, increasing our knowledge of biodiversity. However, biological research on underwater caves has taken place only in a few areas of the world and relevant information remains fragmented in isolated publications and databases. This fragmentation makes assessing the conservation status of marine cave species especially problematic, and this issue should be addressed urgently given the stresses resulting from planned and rampant development in the coastal zone worldwide. The goal of the World Register of marine Cave Species (WoRCS) initiative is to create a comprehensive taxonomic and ecological database of known species from marine caves and anchialine systems worldwide and to present this as a Thematic Species Database (TSD) of the World Register of marine Species (WoRMS). WoRCS will incorporate ecological data (e.g., type of environment, salinity regimes, and cave zone) as well as geographical information on the distribution of species in cave and anchialine environments. Biodiversity data will be progressively assembled from individual database sources at regional, national or local levels, as well as from literature sources (estimate: >20,000 existing records of cave-dwelling species scattered in several databases). Information will be organized in the WoRCS database following a standard glossary based on existing terminology. Cave-related information will be managed by the WoRCS thematic editors with all data dynamically linked to WoRMS and its team of taxonomic editors. In order to mobilize data into global biogeographic databases, a Gazetteer of the Marine and Anchialine Caves of the World will be established. The presence records of species could be eventually georeferenced for submission to the Ocean Biogeographic Information System (OBIS) and constitute an important dataset for biogeographical and climate change studies on marine caves and anchialine systems
Original languageEnglish
Article numbere10451
JournalResearch Ideas and Outcomes
Publication statusPublished - 2016


  • Marine caves
  • anchialine ecosystems
  • biodiversity
  • global species databases
  • biodiversity management

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