Alpine karst

This course is part of the programme
Karstology (Third Cycle)

Objectives and competences

Alpine karst is an important special type of karst; such karst represents a great part of the Slovene karst surface and is also common in a great part of Europe. The processes running in the alpine karst are intensive and recent. The knowledge of the alpine karst is essential considering karstification processes on the surface and underground, especially in connection with young orogenesis. It is easier to understand the karst if one knows well recent evolution of karst features. Large karst alpine aquifers are important resources of drinking water and their protection against pollution is crucial. It is especially difficult because of important alpine tourist centres. The student has to master not only the alpine karst as a natural phenomenon but also the whole complex nature – human – pollution – protection.




• Main characteristics of the alpine karst
• Evolution of alpine cave systems
• Ramification and general trend of alpine cave systems
• The importance of the erosional base changes
• Vertical distribution of alpine cave systems
• Other views upon the evolution of the alpine karst (hypogene caves, paleokarst, Messinian event, glaciation)
• Kitzsteinhorn – an example of a glaciated karst

Intended learning outcomes

The course offers an in-depth knowledge on alpine karst surface and subsurface features and their genesis. Student is able to recognise important genetic phases of particular alpine cave systems, based on their maps, local geology, tectonics and macro and micro morphology of karst features.


• Audra Ph., Bini A., Gabrovšek Fr., Häuselmann Ph., Hobléa F., Jeannin P.-Y., Kunaver J., Monbaron M., Šusteršič Fr., Tognini P., Trimmel H. & Wildberger A. 2006 – Cave genesis in the Alps between the Miocene and today: a review. Zeitschrift für Geomorphologie, t. 50, n° 2, p. 153-176.
• Audra Ph., Mocochain L., Camus H., Gilli É., Clauzon G., Bigot J.-Y. 2004 – The effect of the Messinian Deep Stage on karst development around the French Mediterranean. Geodinamica Acta, vol. 17, n° 6, p. 27-38.
• Audra Ph., Quinif Y. & Rochette P. 2002 – The genesis of the Tennengebirge karst and caves (Salzburg, Austria). Journal of Cave and Karst Studies, vol. 64, n° 3, p. 153-164. E-version
• Audra Ph., Bigot J.-Y. & Mocochain L. 2002 -Hypogenic caves in Provence (France). Specific features and sediments. Acta Carsologica, vol. 31, n° 3, p. 33-50.
• Audra Ph. 2001 – Feichtner cave (Kitzsteinhorn, Salzburg, Austria). A deep cave system developing into calcareous schists in a glacial environment. Acta Carsologica, vol. 30, n° 2, p. 165-174. E-version
• Ford, D.C., Williams, P., 2007. Karst Hydrogeology and Geomorphology. John Wiley & Sons, Chichester. Catalogue E-version
• Palmer, A.N., 2007. Cave geology. Cave Books, Dayton, Ohio.
• Lecture notes and materials provided by the lecturer.


Oral exam(100 %), where student demonstrates knowledge and understanding of the topics given at lectures.

Lecturer's references

Full Professor of Geography


COLUMBU A., AUDRA P., GÁZQUEZ F., D’ANGELI I.M., BIGOT J.Y., KOLTAI G., CHIESA R., YU T.L., HU H.M., SHEN C.C., CARBONE C., HERESANU V., NOBÉCOURT J.C. & DE WAELE J. 2021 - A hypogenic cave system with late-stage condensation-corrosion and epigenic overprinting (Toirano, Liguria, Italy). Geomorphology, 376, 20 p., DOI

AUDRA P. 2017 - Hypogenic caves in France. In: KLIMCHOUK A., PALMER A.N., AUDRA P., DE WAELE J., AULER A. (ED.) - Hypogene Karst Regions and Caves of the Word. Springer, New York, 61-83. DOI

AUDRA P. & PALMER A.N. 2015 - Research frontiers in speleogenesis. Dominant processes, hydrogeologic conditions and resulting cave pattern. Acta Carsologica, 44, 3, 315-348. DOI

DE WAELE, GUTIERREZ F. & AUDRA P. 2015 — Karst geomorphology: from hydrological functioning to palaeoenvironmental reconstructions. Geomorphology, 229, 1-2. DOI

AUDRA P. & PALMER A. N. 2013 — The vertical dimension of karst. Controls of vertical cave pattern. In: Shroder J. (Ed. in chief), Frumkin, A. (Ed.) – Treatise on Geomorphology, vol. 6 (Karst Geomorphology), 186-206. Academic Press, San Diego, CA. DOI