Graduate School

Shallow subterranean habitats

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, ecology, and evolution of shallow subterranean habitats.



Content (Syllabus outline)

  • Shallow subterranean habitats (SSHs):
  • Seepage springs and the hypotelminorheic habitats
  • Epikarst: the soil-rock interface in karst
  • Intermediate-sized terrestrial shallow subterranean habitats
  • Calcrete aquifers
  • Interstitial habitats along rivers and streams
  • Soil
  • Lava tubes
  • The role of light in SSHs
  • Environmental fluctuations and stresses in SSHs
  • Organic carbon and nutrients in SSHs
  • Evolution of morphology in SSHs
  • Colonization and dispersal in SSHs
  • Phylogeny in SSHs
  • Conservation and protection in SSHs

Intended learning outcomes

Students get knowledge about types of shallow subterranean habitats (hypotelminorheic, epikarst, MSS, calcrete aquifers, aquatic interstitial—hyporheic, soil, lava tubes), general features of SSHs like absence of light, surface-subsurface connections, availability of organic carbon and nutrients, geographic distribution patterns of SSHs, habitat size, features of SSHs of general ecological and evolutionary interest and conservation and protection of shallow subterranean habitats.


  • Culver D. C., Pipan T. 2014: Shallow Subterranean Habitats. Ecology, Evolution, and Conservation. Oxford University Press, Oxford.
  • Culver D. C., Pipan T. 2009: The Biology of Caves and Other Subterranean Habitats. Oxford University Press, Oxford.
  • 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: 3KR054

Year of study: 2

Semester: 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