Ecohydrological processes and pressures in karst


Earth and Environmental Sciences (2nd level)

Karstology (2nd Cycle)

Course code: MIK01
Year of study: 2nd year

Course principal:
Assoc. Prof. Nataša Viršek Ravbar, Ph. D.


Workload: lectures 25 hours, seminar 20 hours, field work 25 hours, individual work 80 hours.
Course type: elective
Languages: Slovene, English
Learning and teaching methods:

The content of the course is presented at lectures, diversified with modern didactic grips. Seminars take place at the same time with lectures and they are being related to individual thematic assemblies of lectures. Students individually present problems connected with their research theme, that are being analysed commonly by their classmates.


Course syllabus (download)


First-cycle Bologna degree or a university degree in the natural sciences.


Content (Syllabus outline):

Karst aquifers hold important water resources and are rich in unique (underground) ecosystems. Due to highly dynamic hydrological processes compared to other less permeable systems, they are particularly vulnerable to environmental changes and human activities. An important prerequisite for understanding the limitations of appropriate management of karst natural resources is knowledge of landscape processes and the specific characteristics of water flow in karst. This course therefore integrates karst studies into a general ecological, geomorphological, speleological and hydrological context and emphasises the application of karst-specific research methods. Special attention is paid to the ecohydrological functions of karst underground, the temporal hydrological variability, surface- groundwater interaction and contamination problems. Best practices for protection and management solutions will be presented.



  • BONACCI, O., PIPAN, T., CULVER, D. C., 2009: A framework for karst ecohydrology. Environmental Geology, 56/5: 891-900.
  • GOLDSCHEIDER, N., 2012: A holistic approach to groundwater protection and ecosystem services in karst terrains. Aqua Mundi, 3: 117-124. doi: 10.4409/Am-046-12-0047.
  • GUTIÉRREZ, F., PARISE, M., De WAELE, J., JOURDE, H., 2014: A review on natural and human-induced geohazards and impacts in karst. Earth-Science Reviews, 138: 61-88.
  • HARTMANN, A., GOLDSCHEIDER, N., WAGENER, T., LANGE, J., WEILER, M., 2014: Karst water resources in a changing world: Review of hydrological modeling approaches. Reviews of Geophysics, 52/3: 218-242.
  • KLØVE, B., ALA-AHO, P., BERTRAND, G., BOUKALOVA, Z., ERTÜRK, A., … WIDERLUND, A., 2011: Groundwater dependent ecosystems. Part I: Hydroecological status and trends. Environmental Science & Policy, 14/7: 770-781. doi: 10.1016/j.envsci.2011.04.002.
  • KOVAČIČ, G., RAVBAR, N., 2010: Extreme hydrological events in karst areas of Slovenia, the case of the Unica River basin. Geodinamica Acta, 23/1–3: 89-100.
  • RAVBAR, N., 2007: The protection of karst waters: a comprehensive Slovene approach to vulnerability and contamination risk mapping. Inštitut za raziskovanje krasa ZRC SAZU, Postojna. (poglavja/chapters: 4-8).


Objectives and competences:

  • Students learn about the importance of karst natural resources and other peculiarities of the karst environment;
  • They learn about the specifics of water flow in karst and hydrological variability and they understand why karst natural resources are highly vulnerable;
  • They get acquainted with the basic methods and techniques for researching karst processes;
  • Understand what knowledge is needed for the effective protection of karst natural resources and what measures are most effective for meaningful planning of activities on karst.


Intended learning outcomes:

  • Introduction to terms hydrological variability, surface-groundwater interaction, groundwater dependant ecosystems, etc.;
  • Ability to list the specifics of water flow in karst, the importance of karst natural resources, etc.;
  • Know research methods that are specific to karst research;
  • Ability to critically evaluate what are the appropriate ways to protect and manage the use of karst natural resources, knowledge of examples of good practice;
  • Ability to independently evaluate literature and sources.



Oral exam (60 %), written paper (40 %).