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Jakub Wojkowski*, Viacheslav Andreychouk**, Krzysztof Frączek*
*University of Agriculture in Krakow, Poland; **University of Warsaw, Poland
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The article presents the results of microbiological and microclimatic research carried out in a large maze Zoloushka Cave (Ukraine-Moldova). The cave was artificially exposed during the exploitation of the gypsum quarry founded in the late '40s of the last century. Until the cave labyrinth was opened by the quarry, the underground system of cavities had been almost completely filled with water and constituted a natural part of the rich in water karst aquifer. The cave became exposed while being at the stage of its active formation, and its artificial dehydration enabled researchers to observe the (‘accelerated’) course of various processes associated with the transition of the caves from the watered (freatic) stages to vadose and dry.

Microbiological analyses aimed to determine the number of microorganisms (heterotrophic bacteria, Actinobacteria, and fungi) present in the air of the cave in two seasons – summer and winter. Microclimatic study aimed to determine the thermal, humidity and circulation characteristics of the cave microclimate The rules of occurrence of microorganisms in temporal and spatial (within a cave) cross-sections and the relative role of external and internal (cave) factors in shaping of the microbiological "image" of cave air were established.

The stability of the microclimate (ecological) conditions in the cave in the course of the year allows the conclusion that most of the microorganisms come from the outside and enters the cave during the exchange of the air with the external environment. Nevertheless, the environment of the cave does not remain passive – it makes the air contents spatially (within the cave field) diverse and, in some cases, it determines them (in places of significant anthropogenic pollution of the cave, which probably facilitates the growth of fungi). The measurements have shown that the total number of the studied groups of microorganisms in the air of the cave varies in the course of year within the following ranges: heterotrophic bacteria 48-2,630 cfu·m-3, fungi 80-3,395 cfu·m-3, and Actinobacteria 5-51 cfu·m-3. Mean values of the microbial aerosol concentrations with respect to the entire cave are: heterotrophic bacteria – 353 cfu·m-3, fungi – 974 cfu·m-3, and Actinobacteria – 17 cfu·m-3. In general, there is a regularity of an increase in their concentration during the warm period: 3-5 times higher values for bacteria (48-764 cfu·m-3 in winter and 175-2630 cfu·m-3 in summer), 4-5 times for fungi (80-990 cfu·m-3 in winter and 390-3395 cfu·m-3 in summer), and 0-1 times for Actinobacteria (0-51 cfu·m-3 in winter and 5-55 cfu·m-3 in summer).

airborne microorganisms, cave microclimate, hypogenic cave, Zoloushka Cave (Ukraine-Moldova)

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