Graduate School

Geochemistry of karst

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

Objectives and competences

Corrosion, the dissolution of a carbonate rock, is the process of major significance for the origin and evolution of the karst. This is a chemical process. Beside the corrosion there are also other chemical processes important for the different phases of karst evolution, such as deposition. Chemical characteristics of karst elements are important also from other points of view. Student learns that chemical characteristic of karst water is essential as the main property of water but also of its quality, as a natural tracer, etc. Chemical characteristics of karst water as well as of sediments are an important indicator of their pollution, the type of pollution and often also of the source of the pollution. Student has to be aware of the importance of chemical characteristics and consequences due to chemical processes in the karst environment. From this point of view there is still a lot of unknown and not researched yet so there is still a lot to do for the student’s individual research work. The human impact on karst environment is emphasized.



Content (Syllabus outline)

  • Introduction
  • Hydrogeochemistry of karst
  • Geochemical tracers in karst environment
  • Radioactive and stable isotopes as tracers on karst surface, in soil and in karst water
  • Mutual influence of water – soil – rock
  • Impact and direction of eventual pollutant in karst soil and water
  • The fundamental of geochemical modelling in karst water
  • Protection of underground water from a geochemical point of view

Intended learning outcomes

Student has to master the bases of hydrochemistry of karst. He has to know the geochemical tracers and the importance of radioactive and stable isotopes as natural tracers. He must be aware of mutual influence of rock, soil and water in the karst. Very important is the knowledge of the vulnerability of karst environment against the pollution. Therefore the modelling of geochemical processes of karst waters which is a measure of protection of karst water is crucial.


  • Appelo, C.A.J. & D. Postma (1994): Geochemistry, groundwater and pollution. Balkema, Rotterdam.
  • Drever, J.I. (1988): The Geochemistry of Natural Waters. Prentice Hall, Englewood Cliffs, 437 p.
  • Fritz.P. & Fontes, J.C. (eds.) (1980): Handbook of Environmental Isotope Geochemistry. Elsevier, Amsterdam.
  • Kendall, C.& McDonnell, J.J.(eds.) (1998): Isotope Tracers in Catchment Hydrology. Elsevier, 838 p.
  • Parkhurst, D.L. (1995): PHREEQC- computer program for speciation, reaction-path, advective-transport and inverse geochemical calculations. Water-Resources Investigations Report 95-4227, USGS, Lakewood, Colorado.
  • Plummer, L.N., Prestemon, E.C. & D.L. Parkhurst (1994): An interactive code (NETPATH) for modelling net geochemical reactions along flow path, Version 2.0. USGS Water-Resources Investigation Report 94-4169, Reston, Virginia.
  • Tulipano, L., Fidelibus, M.D., Panagopoulos, A. (eds.)(2005): Groundwater management of coastal karstic aquifers. Final report – COST Action 621. European Commision – Office for Official Publications of the European Communities, Luxembourg.
  • Zwahlen, F. (eds.)(2004): Vulnerability and risk mapping for the protection of carbonate (karst) aquifers. Final report – COST Action 620. European Commission – Office for Official Publications of the European Communities, Luxembourg.
  • Lecture notes – prepared by lecturer


Oral examination.

Lecturer's references

Full Professor of Chemistry


1. Biondić, Božidar; Biondić, Ranko; Kapelj, Sanja. Karst groundwater protection of the Kupa River catchment area and sustainable development. // Environmental Geology, Vol. 49, Number 6, March 2006, pp 828-839, Springer-Verlag, Heidelberg.

2. Prtoljan, B., Kapelj, S., Dukarić, F., Vlahović, I., Mrinjek, E. Hydrogeochemical and isotopic evidence for definition of tectonically controled catchment areas of the Konavle area springs (SE Dalmatia, Croatia). // Journal of geochemical exploration. 112 (2012), 285 -296.

3. Sironić, A., Barešić, J., Horvatinčić, N., Brozinčević, A., Vurnek, M., Kapelj, S. (2017): Changes in the geochemical parameters of karst lakes over the past three decades – The case of Plitvice Lakes, Croatia.// Applied geochemistry, 78, 12-22.

4. Reberski, Lukač Jasmina, Kapelj, Sanja, Terzić, Josip. An estimation of groundwater type and origin of the complex karst catchment using hydrological and hydrogeochemical parameters: A case study of the Gacka River springs// Geologia Croatica, 62 (3) (2009), pp.157-178. (SCI, SCOPUS, Geo-Ref)

5. Kapelj, S., Loborec, J., Kapelj, J. Assessment of aquifer intrinsic vulnerability by the SINTACS method. Geologia Croatica, 66 (2) (2013), pp.119-128. (SCI, SCOPUS, Geo-Ref)

University course code: 3KR009

Year of study: 2

Semester: 1-2

Course principal:



  • Lectures: 50 hours
  • Exercises: 10 hours
  • Seminar: 30 hours
  • Individual work: 90 hours

Course type: elective

Languages: english

Learning and teaching methods:
• lectures • laboratory work • seminar work