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Karst topography is very widespread in the Park, above all on Maiella, which has more than 100 caves.

Water from rains and from the melting snow has been leaking and flowing into the subsoil for millenniums, widening the fractures in limestone rocks, digging caverns and tunnels with its chemical and mechanical action. On the contrary, the same phenomenon can also construct stalactites and stalagmites, alabaster concretions that decorate the walls of these caverns, like in the Cavallone Cave, situated at 1,450 m in the Taranta Great Valley, a karst complex 1.3 km long and equipped for tours and visits.

The Grotta Nera (“Dark Cave”) has a restricted access due to its fragility; there can be found the “mount milk”, a rare soft concretion originated by some bacteria.

The temperature of the hypogeal environment is constant over the year, about 10°C, the humidity is high (80-90%), light is absent, but this condition doesn't prevent life.

In the entrance and in the first segment there are some plants that live in shaded places, like the southern maidenhair fern, the Majella columbine and the Cavolini bellflower, as well as moss and lichens, whereas inside only algae and mushrooms can be found.

The fauna is mainly constituted by invertebrates (arachnids, orthoptera, coleoptera, lepidoptera) which adapted to the hypogeal environment through the reduction of sight organs, the depigmentation of the body and the development of sensorial apparatuses like long tactile bristles.

The caves are sometimes inhabited by some animal species finding here favorable conditions for hibernation or simple rest: foxes, beech martens, wolves, bears, nocturnal birds of prey, but above all bats, flying mammals which move and hunt thanks to the emission of ultrasounds allowing them to localize preys and obstacles.

The main part of those present on Majella use the caves at least during hibernation period.

Many caves and caverns of the Park were frequented by Man, like the neolithic Caprara Cave (at Lama dei Peligni) and Piccioni Cave (in the Orta River Valley), St. Giovanni all'Orfento (Celestino the V's hermitage) and Stazzo del Faggio (at Pennapiedimonte), which was a shepherds' shelter “near the beech”.

Image of "Grotta del Cavallone"
Image of "Grotta del Cavallone"
Image of "Grotta oscura di Bolognano""
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