Graduate School

Physical and cultural aspects of karst areas in tropical environments

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

Objectives and competences

Man had to adapt to the karst environment, but on the other hand, this landscape is very sensitive and even vulnerable to human activities. This subject has to explain the responses of karst with regard to changes of karst, either negative or positive, with regard to human activities, especially in tropical environments.

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 sources of and solutions to social challenges connected with the karst.

Content (Syllabus outline)

Study of tropical karst enhances the student’s awareness of man’s global physical and human environment. This is achieved by means of scientific methods, including observation, data gathering and interpretative skills. The knowledge, understanding and skills obtained will help the student to form proper values and attitudes, as well as to assess, interpret and attempt solutions to spatial socio-environmental problems.

Students become familiar with the following topics:

  • Karst landscape and geo-systems in tropical environments
  • Development of karst landscape – selected examples from the tropics
  • Examples of karst settlement and exploitation of its resources in the tropics
  • Examples of human impact on karst in tropical regions
  • Difficulties with resource management and sustainable development of karst in developing countries

Intended learning outcomes

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


  • Burri E., Castiglioni B. & Sauro U. (Eds) (1999) – Karst and Agriculture in the World. International Journal of Speleology, 28/2, 198 pp.
  • Culver D. C., Pipan T. 2009: The Biology of Caves and Other Subterranean Habitats. Oxford University Press, 256 pp., Oxford.
  • Ford, D.C., Williams, P., 2007. Karst Hydrogeology and Geomorphology. John Wiley & Sons, 578 pp., Chichester.
  • Gunn, J., 2004. Encyclopedia of caves and karst science. Fitzroy Dearborn, 1970 pp., New York.
  • Palmer, A.N., 2007. Cave geology. Cave Books, 454 pp., Dayton, Ohio.
  • 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.
  • White, W. B. (Ed.), Culver, D. C. (Ed.), 2012: Encyclopedia of caves. 2nd ed., Academic Press, Amsterdam.


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. A requisite for taking the examination is a written product (5-15 pages), in which the student discusses a specific narrower topic from the course subject.

Lecturer's references

Associate Professor in Karstology


  • TRAVASSOS, L.E.P.; OLIVEIRA, R. I. C. Tufa deposits in the karst region of Montes Claros, Minas Gerais, Brazil. Acta Carsologica, V. 45, pp. 85-96, 2016.
  • TRAVASSOS, L.E.P.; RODRIGUES, B.D.; MOTTA, A. R. S. Caverna Das Mãos: An example of dark zone rock art in Brazil. Acta Carsologica, V. 41, pp. 304-309, 2013.
  • TRAVASSOS, L.E.P. The Importance of the Alexander von Humboldt’s Work “Island of Cuba” to the Study of Caves in Cuban Territory. In: FARFÁN GONZÁLEZ, H.; CORVEA PORRAS, J.L.; de BUSTAMENTE GUTIERREZ, I.; LAMOREAUX, J.W. (Eds.). Management of Water Resources in Protected Areas. Heidelberg: Springer, 2013, pp. 347-355.
  • KNEZ, M.; SLABE, T.; TRAVASSOS, L.E.P. Karren on laminar calcarenitic rock of Lagoa Santa (Minas Gerais, Brazil). Acta Carsologica, V. 40, No. 2, pp. 357-367, 2011.
  • TRAVASSOS, L.E.P.; KOHLER, H.C. Historical and geomorphological characterization of a Brazilian karst region. Acta Carsologica, V. 38, No. 2, pp. 277-291, 2009.
  • TRAVASSOS, L.E.P.; TRAVASSOS, E.G.; TRAVASSOS, L.P.; TRAVASSOS, L.C.P. Non-specialists perception about endokarst and exokarst scenarios: visions from high school students. Acta Carsologica, V. 36, No. 2, pp. 329-335, 2007.

University course code: 3KR059

Year of study: 2

Semester: 2

Course principal:




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

Course type: elective

Languages: english

Learning and teaching methods:
• lectures • written seminar work • individual work on a specific topic