A Glimpse of Empire Cave's Biodiversity

Stewarding a Sensitive Resource

Emipre Cave is a highly sensitive ecosystem that has experienced vandalism and other human-induced impacts that threaten its unique species. Though development could potentially impact the cave environment by altering hydrology, more immediate threats stem from frequent visitation to this easily accessible cave. Visitors can reduce their impact by choosing to not enter the cave, or at the very least packing out their trash; refraining from smoking burning campfires, or spraypainting; and leaving woody debris in place within the cave. In order to protect the rare and endemic widlife that calls the cave home, we encourage people to refrain from entering Empire Cave without explicit permission from Campus Natural Reserve staff.

Rare Landform, Rare Creatures

Formed within the fractured marble bedrock of the central coast of California’s largest karst landscape, Empire Cave is the primary habitat of a diverse assembly of organisms, several of which are restricted to the cave environment. While over 70 invertebrate species have been found within the Cave Gulch cave system, which includes Empire Cave, at least 40 are known to call Empire Cave home (Ubick 2001).  Of these, several are thought to be endemic, including MacKenzie’s cave amphipod (Stygobromus mackenziei) and an undescribed aquatic isopod (Calasellus sp. nov.). Among the rarest species is the Dolloff's cave spider (Meta dolloff), originally described from Cave Gulch, and the Empire Cave pseudoscorpion (Fissilicreagris imperialis), endemic to three caves in the Cave Gulch system. Despite its rare fauna, assessment of the cave’s biodiversity is rarely done and no formal monitoring program exists. This downloadable poster presents findings from an informal field survey on August 18th, 2016, where the biodiversity discovered included one vertebrate, four hexapods, two myriapods, one oligochaeta, six arachnids and two fungi. What else may be found with further careful, scientific exploration?

In a study of over 1300 California caves, Empire Cave was ranked as the 3rd most biodiverse cave (Elliot et al. 2017).

Empire Cave Biodiversity poster

(Click on link above to download a pdf of the 2 ft x 3ft poster pictured below)

This image displays photos and text of Empire Cave's biodiversity


This image shows the sign posted outside Empire Cave