Biodiversity Science ›› 2018, Vol. 26 ›› Issue (12): 1277-1288.doi: 10.17520/biods.2018109

• Original Papers • Previous Article     Next Article

Community characteristics of bryophyte in Karst caves and its effect on heavy metal pollution: A case study of Zhijin Cave, Guizhou Province

Run Liu1, 2, Zhaohui Zhang1, 2, *(), Jiachen Shen1, 2, Zhihui Wang3   

  1. 1 Key Laboratory for Information System of Mountainous Area and Protection of Ecological Environment of Guizhou Province, Guizhou Normal University, Guiyang 550001
    2 State Key Laboratory Incubation Base for Karst Mountain Ecology Environment of Guizhou Province, Guiyang 550001
    3 School of Life Sciences, Guizhou Normal University, Guiyang 550001
  • Received:2018-04-12 Accepted:2018-10-12 Online:2019-02-11
  • Zhang Zhaohui
  • About author:# Co-first authors

Heavy metal pollution caused by the development and utilization of Karst caves seriously threatens the cave environment and groundwater. Understanding the pollution dynamics has important practical significance for monitoring the cave environment. Here, the characteristics and heavy metals of the bryophytes in a typical Dark River Cave, Zhijin Cave, in Guizhou province were studied to explore the effect of the bryophyte community on cave pollution. A total of 34 types of bryophyte communities were observed, representing 49 taxa of bryophytes (12 of liverworts, 37 of mosses) in 33 genera (8 of liverworts, 25 of mosses) and 20 families (8 of liverworts, 12 of mosses). The dominant families were Pottiaceae, Fissidentaceae and Mniaceae, comprising 16%, 14%, and 14% of all taxa, respectively. Mercury (Hg) levels were up to 59.45, much higher than Cr and Zn, which indicates that Hg is the most serious pollutant in caves. The bryophyte community index showed a decreasing trend with an increase in heavy metal pollution. The Hg content of the measured heavy metals was significantly negatively correlated with its corresponding bryophyte community indices (P < 0.05), which indicates that the bryophyte community characteristics can accurately reflect the level of Hg pollution within a cave. The RDA sequencing results showed that bryophyte communities in Karst caves adapt to low photometric environment and thus exhibit photopic movement, grow well in Ca substrate and are resistant to heavy metals. The Hg content in the Conocephalum conicum was significantly correlated with its substrate Hg content (P < 0.05). This shows that C. conicum is affected by the substrate Hg pollution. In the future, C. conicum can be used as one of the biomonitoring materials for cave environments.

Key words: Zhijin Cave, bryophyte community, heavy metals, monitoring

Table 1

Habitat and bryophyte community diversity of five plots in Zhijin Cave"

Distance to entrance
Plot description
No. of plots
Ca content
pH 湿度
Temperature (℃)
80 m 洞壁钙华基质; 阴湿
Cave wall travertine matrix; wet and damp
9 760,805 7.21 20° 7.7 87.1 14.1
60 m 石上薄土; 阴湿 Thin soil on the stone; wet and damp 8 668,208 19.25 30° 7.8 96.4 13.2
40 m 湿石灰土; 入口大厅最平缓处
Wet lime soi; the most gentle place in the entrance hall
7 284,183 36.95 8.0 97.0 13.7
20 m 入口缓坡 Entrance slope 8 454,343 120.5 35° 8.1 96.4 14.8
0 m 入口内外10 m范围内陡坡
Steep slope within 10 m inside and outside the entrance
8 294,232 627 50° 7.9 83.1 16.9

Table 2

A survey of the community types of bryophytes in Zhijin Cave. * Dominant communities; D, Dominant species; A, Associated species."

Table 3

The content of heavy metal (mean ± SE) (mg/kg) in the substrate of bryophytes at different distance to entrance and it’s community indicators"

Distance to
基质铬 Substrate Cr 基质汞 Substrate Hg 基质锌 Substrate Zn 群落丰富度
Community richness
Species richness
Diversity index
Times of ultra standard
Times of ultra standard
Times of ultra standard
80 m 72.68 ± 0.83d -0.26 0.55 ± 0.01d 4.00 73.7 ± 0.95d -0.24 12 26 7
60 m 100.41 ± 2.65b -0.07 0.70 ± 0.01d 5.36 92.3 ± 0.95cd 0.05 8 15 5
40 m 178.54 ± 0.75a 1.80 6.65 ± 0.06a 59.45 278.4 ± 1.45a 0.86 5 9 3
20 m 97.31 ± 0.82c 0.24 5.83 ± 0.09b 52.00 123.5 ± 1.1c 0.01 4 13 4
0 m 83.88 ± 1.29d 1.17 3.47 ± 0.06c 30.55 216.3 ± 3.35b -0.13 7 16 5

Fig. 1

Relationship between heavy metal content in substrate and community indexes of bryophytes in Zhijin Cave. Logarithmic conversion processing based on 10 is carried out on the data."


RDA ordination diagram between dominant communityof bryophytes and environmental factors. Abbreviations of dominant communities are shown in Table 2. In the figure, solid arrows represent heavy metals, hollow arrows represent other environmental factors, and asterisks represent dominant bryophyte communities. The length of the arrow represents the magnitude of the influence of the variable on the environmental factors, the included angle between the arrows represents the correlation between the variables, and the cosine value of the included angle represents the correlation coefficient between the two variables;The length of the connection line between bryophyte communities and line segments represents the corresponding relationship between communities and environmental variables."

Table 4

Hg content of bryophytes at different distance to entrance (mg/kg)"

Distance entrance
Fissidens laxus
Taxiphyllum taxiramum
Eurhynchium eustegium
Conocephalum conicum
80 m 0.32 - - -
60 m 0.14 0.47 0.43 -
40 m - - - 0.67
20 m 0.18 - - 0.61
0 m 0.27 0.58 0.59 -
均值 Average 0.23 0.53 0.51 0.64

Table 5

Correlation of Hg between different bryophytes and their substrate contents"

Fissidens laxus
Taxiphyllum taxiramum
Eurhynchium eustegium
Conocephalum conicum
Correlation coefficient
-0.658 -0.388 -0.361 0.91
P 0.227 0.519 0.551 0.032*
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