Fundamentals of karstology


Earth and Environmental Sciences (2nd level)

Biodiversity, ecology and evolution (2nd Cycle)
Karstology (2nd Cycle)
Paleobiology and sedimentary geology (2nd Cycle)

Course code: MT004
Year of study: 1st year

Course principal:
Prof. Martin Knez, Ph. D.


Workload: lectures 35 hours, seminar 25 hours, field work 30 hours, individual work 135 hours.
Course type: mandatory
Languages: Slovene, English
Learning and teaching methods: lectures, seminar, tutorial, individual work


Course syllabus (download)


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


Content (Syllabus outline):

The course content encompasses the knowledge of the characteristics of the karst, the Classical Karst, Slovene karstology and karst throughout the world. Students will come to know the complex of three-dimensional landscape (karst geology, geomorphology, hydrology, biology and ecology) with special surface, cave and karst waters. Almost half of the surface area of Slovenia is made up of rocks that karstify. Students will become more thoroughly acquainted with the formation and weathering of carbonates and with their general lithostratigraphic properties, structure and classification. Karst is a dynamic system, which is basically caused by physical and chemical processes. Students will come to know these processes, what they depend on and what their dynamics are like; they will also learn about the initial periods of cave evolution. They will become more thoroughly acquainted with the processes of the dissolution and release of calcium carbonate, the transport of substances in the karst aquifer and the basics of the dynamics of speleogenesis. They will learn about the basic concepts regarding the characteristics of karst aquifers and the characteristics of the discharge of water in the karst. They will become acquainted with the connection among individual components of subterranean habitats and the consequences of human activity. They will learn about the underground as a habitat for subterranean organisms and about the importance of biodiversity.


Main topics:

  • Slovene and international karstology;
  • Karst in Slovenia and throughout the world;
  • Karst geology;
  • Karst hydrology;
  • Karst caves;
  • Use and protection of the karst surface, underground and waters;
  • Karst biology and ecology of subterranean habitats.



  • CULVER, D. C., PIPAN, T., 2019: The biology of caves and other subterranean habitats, (Biology of habitats). Oxford University Press, New York, 301 str. (poglavja/chapters: 24-40, 119-146, 206-225).
  • FORD, D. C., WILLIAMS, P. 2007: Karst Geomorphology and Hydrology. John Wiley & Sons Ltd, Chichester, 562 str. (poglavja/chapters: 1-77, 103-144, 209-270, 401-440).
  • GAMS, I., 2004: Kras v Sloveniji v prostoru in času. Založba ZRC, Ljubljana, 515 str. (poglavja/chapters: 1-206).
  • KLIMCHOUK, A. B., FORD, D. C., PALMER, A. N. & DREYBRODT, W. (ur.) 2000: Speleogenesis: Evolution of Karst Aquifers. National Speleological Society, Huntsville AL, 527 str. (poglavja/chapters: 20-123, 224-406).
  • TUCKER, M. E. 2001: Sedimentary petrology, An Introduction to the Origin of Sedimentary Rocks. Blackwell Science Ltd., Oxford, 262 str. (poglavja/chapters: 110-165).


Other literature will be presented in lectures.


Objectives and competences:

The course introduces students to the knowledge of the three-dimensional karst landscape, of the Classical Karst and of karstology as unique and important parts of natural and cultural heritage. The course objectives encompass the international importance of our karstology, the history of karstology, and the knowledge of the basic processes of karstification, with examples from Slovenia and the world.


Students will develop basic competences:

  • Understanding of the basic concepts of the scientific premises of the discipline, which direct students towards analysing and solving problems;
  • Review of the thematic sets that analyse social and spatial interdependence on a local, regional, national, macro-regional and global level, each from their own perspective;
  • Skill of applying theoretical and practical research methods to understand and direct the interdependence between humans and their social and natural environment.


Students will develop course-specific competences:

  • Knowledge and understanding of the characteristics of the karst and the importance of Slovene karstology in the world;
  • Ability to understand karst phenomena in a multidisciplinary way.


Intended learning outcomes:

Students will come to know the importance and development of karstology in Slovenia and in the world. They will come to know the karstification processes (the physical and chemical processes, geological predispositions of karstification and the stages of karst evolution). They will learn about the karst aquifer and the karst ecosystem. They will acquire knowledge of the applicability of the basic findings for planning life in the delicate karst landscape and for its protection.


Knowledge and understanding of:

  • Students understand the theoretical bases of karstology and are able to apply them to practical examples and problems;
  • Are able to solve the set tasks in a logical order and are able to prepare an approximate expert assessment of a specific area.


Exam (90 %), written paper (10 %).