Graduate School

Karst ecology

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

Objectives and competences

The primary goal of this course is to give students the theoretical and practical knowledge for understanding the biology and ecology of karst ecosystems, to present them examples and case studies of organisms, communities and habitats and biological processes occurring in these unique environments. Emphasis is also on conservation and management aspects.



Content (Syllabus outline)

  • Ecology and biology of karst surface and subterranean habitats and their biodiversity
  • Karst wetlands: types of intermittent lakes, turloughs
  • Sources of energy in subterranean environments
  • Ecological and evolutionary survey of organisms
  • Biotic interactions and community structure
  • Colonization and speciation in subterranean environments: allopatric and parapatric speciation, vicariance and dispersal
  • Biogeography
  • Conservation and protection of surface and subterranean habitats and organisms

Intended learning outcomes

Knowledge and understanding:

Students get skills on ecology of karst ecosystems and subterranean habitats and biodiversity, karst ecosystem function, community ecology and biogeography. They get knowledge of analytical assessment and interpretation of karst ecosystems and understanding of energetic, structural and functional relations between ecosystem components, and anthropogenic impact.


  • Culver D. C., Kane T. C., Fong D. W. 1995: Adaptation and Natural Selection in Caves. The Evolution of Gammarus minus. Harvard Univ. Press, Cambridge.
  • Culver D. C., Pipan T. 2009: The Biology of Caves and Other Subterranean Habitats. Oxford University Press, Oxford.
  • Culver D. C., Pipan T. 2014: Shallow Subterranean Habitats. Ecology, Evolution, and Conservation. Oxford University Press, Oxford.
  • Gaberščik A. 2003: Jezero, ki izginja. Monografija o Cerkniškem jezeru. Društvo ekologov Slovenije, Ljubljana.
  • Griffiths H. I., Kryštufek B., Reed M. 2004: Balkan Biodiversity. Pattern and Process in the European Hotspot. Kluwer Academic Publishers, Dordrecht.
  • Gibert J., Danielopol D. L., Stanford J. A. 1994: Groundwater Ecology. Academic Press, San Diego.
  • Pipan T. 2005: Epikarst – a promising habitat. Copepod fauna, its diversity and ecology: a case study from Slovenia (Europe). Založba ZRC, Ljubljana.
  • White W. B., Culver D. C. 2012: Encyclopedia of Caves. Elsevier, Amsterdam.
  • Wilkens H., Culver D. C., Humphreys W. 2000: Ecosystems of the World. Subterranean Ecosystems. Elsevier, Amsterdam.
  • Selected articles from scientific journals.


Short written seminar, its presentation and exam. 50/50

Lecturer's references

Associate professor of Biology


University course code: 3KR028

Year of study: 1

Course principal:




  • Lectures: 50 hours
  • Seminar: 30 hours
  • Field exercises: 10 hours
  • Individual work: 90 hours

Course type: elective

Languages: slovene, english

Learning and teaching methods:
• lectures • field lectures and field work • individual work of a selected investigation and presentation as a seminar work