The fungal diversity in areas accessible and not accessible to tourists at UNESCO World Heritagelisted Naracoorte Caves was investigated with culturedependent and culture-independent techniques for assistance in cave management protocol development. The caves were selected based on tourist numbers and configurations: Stick Tomato (open, high numbers), Alexandra (lockable openings, high numbers) and Strawhaven (control; no access). Culture-based survey revealed Ascomycota dominance irrespective of sampling area with Microascales (Trichurus sp.) being most frequently isolated. Some Hypocreales-like sequences belonging to Fusarium sp., Trichoderma sp. and Neonectria sp. (Stick Tomato) were cultured only from areas not accessible to tourists. These orders also were detected by DGGE assay irrespective of sampling area. The predominance of Ascomycota (especially Microascales) suggested their important ecological roles in these caves. Culture-independent analysis showed higher Shannon fungal diversity values (from ITS-based DGGE profiles) in tourist-accessible areas of these caves than in inaccessible areas with the fungal community banding patterns being substantially different in Stick Tomato Cave. Further investigations are needed to determine the cause of the differences in the fungal communities of Stick Tomato Cave, although caverelated factors such as use, configuration and sediment heterogeneity might have contributed to these differences.
- Environmental factors
- ITS regions