Graduate School

Environment changes and human impact on karst

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

Objectives and competences

Man had to adapt to the karst environment and on the other side this landscape is very sensible and even vulnerable against the human activities. The subject has to explain the responses of karst with regard to the changes and the response of karst, negative or positive with regard to human activities. The change of karst environment was gradual and slow during the geological periods but sudden and fast because of human impact. It has to be clear to distinguish between the causes and consequences, where the role of interdisciplinary approach is very important. The causes of changes are very different, from climatic changes, tectonic movements, volcanism, to deforestation and desertification provoked by human and are dealt by different sciences.



Content (Syllabus outline)

Students become familiar with the following topics:

  • Karst landscape and geo-systems
  • Development of karst landscape in the Pleistocene and Holocene – selected examples
  • Examples of karst settlement and exploitation of its resources
  • Important resources in karst: water, chert, limestone, minerals, soil, forest, pastures
  • The formation of “semi-natural” landscape – selected examples
  • Examples of human impact on karst in temperate and tropical regions
  • Difficulties with resource management and sustainable development of karst

Intended learning outcomes

Basic awareness of the common man influence on karst, in a positive and in a negative sense. Understand basic concepts such as karst landscape, geo-system and sustainable development in karst regions, with the appropriate terminology. Mastered the evaluation of the impact on karst induced by the use or exploitation of resources in karst. Ability to assess the impact of man and the importance of sustainable development.


  • Williams P. W. (Ed) (1993) – Karst terrains: environmental changes and human impact. Catena supplement 25, 268 pp.
  • Withe W. B. & Culver D.C. (Eds)(2012) – Encyclopedia of caves. – (Some selected items) – 2nd Ed., Academic Press, Elsevier, 945 pp.
  • Burri E., Castiglioni B. & Sauro U. (Eds) (1999) – Karst and Agriculture in the World. International Journal of Speleology, 28/2, 198 pp.
  • Sauro U. (1993) – Human impact on the karst of the Venetian Fore-Alps (Southern Alps, Northern Italy). Environmental Geology 21/3, 115-121.
  • Sauro U. (1999) – Towards a preliminary model of a Karst Geo-Ecosystem: the example of the Venetian Fore-Alps. Karst 99, Etudes de géographie physisque, suppl. n. 28, CAGEP, Université de Provence, 165-170.


Oral examination 100%.

Lecturer's references

Associate Professor of Geography


1. GAMS I., NICOD J., JULIAN M., ANTHONY E., SAURO U., 1993: Environmental changes and human impact in the mediterranean Karst of France, Italy and Dinaric Region. Catena suppl., 25, 59-98.

2. BURRI E., CASTIGLIONI B., SAURO U. (eds), 1999: Karst and Agriculture in the World. International Journal of Speleology, 28, 2, 198.

3. SAURO U. (2009) – DJL_Geosystems (presentation ppt). Educational resources for caving and karstology”, Italian Speleologica Society, presentations in four languages (Italian, English, French and Spanish) downloadable for free at the site” “; registration is required.

4. SAURO U. (2013) – Landforms of mountainous karst in the middle latitudes: reflections, trends and research problems. Acta Carsologica, 42/1, 5-16.

5. SAURO U. (2017) – Highlights of some human adventures in a karst environment: the case of the Monti Lessini, Venetian Prealps, Italy. Acta Carsologica, 46/2−3, 329-338.

University course code: 3KR030

Year of study: 2

Semester: 2

Course principal:



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

Course type: general elective

Languages: english

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