Autumn leaves cover a small stream

NPS Photo/ Kait Evensen

There are two broad ways to characterize ecosystems in the park: aquatic versus terrestrial, and surface versus underground.

Aquatic habitats in the park include

  • Rivers
  • Upland swamps
  • The cave aquatic ecosystem

Terrestrial habitats in the park include

  • Forests
  • Grasslands
  • The terrestrial cave ecosystem

Geology plays a dominant role in all these ecosystems. Rivers and cave streams cut through the landscape, natural depressions in sandstone on uplands collect rainwater, southwest facing limestone slopes are baked by the sun, and in the southeast part of the park – world class karst including the longest cave in the world.

These landscapes support an impressive variety of flora and fauna, and one of the most diverse and well-studied karst biota in the world. This has led to the area being internationally designated as the Mammoth Cave Biosphere Region, a part of the UNESCO Man and the Biosphere (MAB) Programme.

Explore the pages below to learn a little more about the different ecosystems within Mammoth Cave National Park.

  • A boardwalk nestled beside a slope of bright green trees blanketed in warm sunlight.


    Different types of mixed forests can be seen throughout the park, supporting a wide variety of plants and animals

  • View from inside a cave entrance; dark shadowed rock frames a window to green foliage.


    Perfectly adapted cave-dwelling creatures rely upon one another for survival, along with a little help from the outside

  • View from feet level of a shallow rushing stream in short but steep mud banks and lush green forest.


    The many rivers, streams, springs, and ponds support aquatic life and connect the underground and aboveground

Last updated: November 4, 2021

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Mailing Address:

P.O. Box 7
Mammoth Cave, KY 42259-0007


270 758-2180

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