Graduate School

Introduction to karstology

This course is part of the programme:
Karstology (Third Level)

Objectives and competences

The unique interaction of geological, hydrological, geochemical and biological factors and processes on karst results in the evolution of exceptional surface and subterranean forms, the specific drainage of groundwater and the existence of unique subterranean habitats. The natural features of karst areas pose numerous social challenges to those who manage and plan life on karst.

Karstology is an interdisciplinary science or “an integral system of sciences about the karst”, which intertwines the approaches and methods of various natural sciences, social and humanistic sciences. A karstologist must understand the karst, its evolution, natural characteristics, distribution and the development challenges faced by society.

The course objectives are:

  • to recognise and understand the diversity of the processes and factors on karst,
  • to become acquainted with karstology as an integral science on karst,
  • to come to know the distribution and characteristics of karst around the world and in the region which he or she comes from,
  • to come to know the sources of and solutions to social challenges connected with the karst,
  • to acquire knowledge about the ecology of karst subterranean habitats and their biodiversity, biotic processes and biogeography.



Content (Syllabus outline)

  • Karstology as an integral system of sciences about the karst

- Tradition of Slovene karstology and the Classical Karst

- Karstology in terms of content and organisation as part of modern science and , and society

- Karst rocks: types, characteristics and depositional environments

  • Karst evolution:

- dissolution and mass transport in the karst origin and importance of structural elements for the evolution of the karst

- types, evolution and importance of karst surface forms

- typea, evolution and importance of small karst forms

- evolution of caves (speleogenesis)

  • Karst hydrogeology:

- characteristics of karst aquifers

- ground water flow in the karst

- mass transport in a karst aquifer

  • Sediments on the karst:

- types of sediments on the karst: their occurrence, formation and importance dating of sediments

  • Life in the karst underground:

- ecology of karst subterranean habitats

- animals of the karst underground: species and their interactions, adaptations, distribution, hot spots of subterranean biodiversity in the world

  • Microbiology of the environment:

- hydro-ecosphere

- litho-ecosphere

  • Karst around the world:

- the most important karst areas in the world

- characteristics of the karst in various climate zones

- the longest and deepest cave systems in the world

  • Karst in the region which the student comes from:

- evolution of the territory, structural and lithological characteristics of the karst of the select region

- the most important cave systems, their evolution and characteristics

- geomorphological characteristics of the karst

- hydrogeology of the main karst river basins

  • Development challenges on karst

Intended learning outcomes

Students acquire basic knowledge and understanding of the karst. They come to know the natural characteristics of the karst: formation and evolution of karst rocks, karstification processes, ground water flow and processes in the karst, evolution of caves and of the karst surface, characteristics of subterranean habitats, distribution of karst around the world, characteristics of our karst areas and the development challenges posed by the karst. They become familiar with karstology as a scientific discipline and with fundamental literature on karst.


  • Ford, D.C., Williams, P., 2007. Karst Hydrogeology and Geomorphology. John Wiley & Sons, Chichester.
  • Palmer, A.N., 2007. Cave geology. Cave Books, 454 str., Dayton, Ohio.
  • White, W. B. (ur.), Culver, D. C. (ur.), 2012: Encyclopedia of caves. 2nd ed., Academic Press, Amsterdam.
  • Tucker, M.E. 2001: Sedimentary petrology, An Introduction to the Origin of Sedimentary Rocks (3rd edition), 262 str., Blackwell science, Oxford.
  • Culver D. C., Pipan T. 2009: The Biology of Caves and Other Subterranean Habitats. Oxford University Press, Oxford.
  • Gams, I., 2004. Kras v Sloveniji v prostoru in času, 515 str. ZRC Publishing, Ljubljana.
  • Gunn, J., 2004. Encyclopedia of caves and karst science. Fitzroy Dearborn, New York.


The oral examination is intended for assessing the knowledge acquired by students at lectures and their ability to understand, articulate and present the acquired knowledge. The examination consists of several thematic units: • Karst geology • Karst geomorphology • Speleology • Karst hydrogeology • Karst biology • Regional karstology • Karstology and development challenges on karst One of the lecturers is in charge of an individual set. The oral defence stands for 80% of the final mark. A requisite for taking the examination is a written product (5-10 pages), in which the student discusses a specific narrower topic from the basics of karstology or a specific source that relates to his or her seminar paper and the contents of the doctoral thesis. The written part stands for 20% of the final mark. 80/20

Lecturer's references

Adjunct Professor of Karstology


University course code: 3KR001

Year of study: 1

Semester: 1

Course principal:




  • Lectures: 40 hours
  • Seminar: 50 hours
  • Individual work: 180 hours

Course type: compulsory

Languages: slovene, english

Learning and teaching methods:
• lectures • written seminar work • individual work upon a specific question • focusing on the topics related to the content of student's doctoral work. • field work