Karst geomorphology


Environmental and Regional Studies (3rd level)

Biodiversity and ecology (3rd Cycle)
Paleobiology and sedimentary geology (3rd Cycle)
Regional studies (3rd Cycle)

Course code: DI015
Year of study: 1st year

Course principal:
Assist. Prof. Mateja Ferk, Ph. D.


Workload: lectures 30 hours, tutorial 20 hours, field work 10 hours, individual work 120 hours.
Course type: common elective
Languages: Slovene, English
Learning and teaching methods: lectures, seminars, e-learning


Course syllabus (download)


Finished second Bologna level in the appropriate field or University degree VII.


Content (Syllabus outline):

1. Introduction to Kartology
1.1 Definitions
1.2 Diferenciation of Karst from Non-Karst
1.3 Karstology as a Scientific Discipline
1.4 Karstology in Slovenia
1.5 Karst Terminology


2. Karst Rocks
2.1. Carbonate Rocks and Minerals
2.2 Limestone and Dolomite Deposition, Composition and Diagenesis
2.3 Carbonate Clastic Rocks
2.4 Fractures and Unconformities in Rocks


3. Carbonate Dissolution
3.1 The Process of Corrosion
3.2 Effects of Biocorrosion
3.3 Mechanical Weathering
3.4 Measurements of Carbonate Dissolution


4. Introduction to Karst Hydrology
4.1. Development of Karst Hydrological Systems
4.2 Hydrographic Zones in Karst
4.3 Characteristics of Karst Aquifers
4.4 Circumstances of Accelerated Dissolution
4.5 Water-Tracing Techniques


5. Formation of Caves and their significance for Society
5.1. Introduction to Speleogenesis
5.2 Cave Types by hydrological characteristics
5.3 Cave Types by energy flow characteristics
5.4 Endogenetic Cave Sediments
5.5 Exogenetic Cave Sediments
5.6 Palaeoenvironmental Reconstructions based on Cave Sediments
5.7 Cave Protection Techniques
5.8 Challenges of Show-Cave Management


6. Surface Karst Features
6.1. Basics of Surface Karst Features
6.2 Small-scale Karst Features
6.3 Karst Depressions
6.4 Karst Types by Lithological Differences
6.5 Karst Types by Climatic Conditions
6.6 Karst Types in Slovenia


7. Human Impact on Karst
7.1 Vulnerability of Karst Landscapes
7.2 Exploitation of Natural Karst Resources
7.3 Preservation and Exploitation of Drinking Water from Karst
7.4 Sustainable Management of Karst Landscapes
7.5 Scientific, Cultural, and Recreational Significance of Karst Landscapes for Society


Temeljni literatura in viri:

  • Ford, D., Williams, P. 2007. Karst Hydrogeology and Geomorphology. Chichester, 562 str.
  • Gams, I. 1973. Slovenska kraška terminologija. Ljubljana, 45 str.
  • Gams, I. 2004. Kras v Sloveniji v prostoru in času. Ljubljana, 515 str.
  • Gunn, J. 2004. Encyclopedia of Caves and Karst Science. New York, London, 1940 str.
  • Mihevc, A., Prelovšek, M., Zupan Hajna, N. 2010. Introduction to the Dinaric Karst. Postojna, 71 str.
  • Stepišnik, U. 2020. Fizična geografija krasa. Ljubljana, 112 str.
  • White, W. B. 1988. Geomorphology and Hydrology of Karst Terrains. Oxford, 480 str.


Objectives and competences:

The aim of the course is to provide basic understanding of the origin and development of karst landscapes and the dynamics of key processes in the karst, which differ significantly from non-karst environments. It is crucial to understand that the karst landscape continues underground; in the short term, surface actions are transferred underground, and in the long term the underground condition affect the surface. The vulnerability of karst will be exposed, as it is extremely sensitive to human activity due to its specific characteristics. On the basis of this knowledge, competencies on appropriate management and administration of karst landscapes will be acquired, which ensures their sustainable use.


Intended learning outcomes:

  • Knowledge of the development of karstology in the world and the importance of the Slovenian karst territory for the development of the scientific disciplines karstology and speleology.
  • Knowledge of basic international karstological terminology and the influence of Slovene and other Slavic languages on its development.
  • Understanding the formation of selected carbonate rocks and the influence of their unconformities on karstification.
  • Understanding the basic chemical process of carbonate dissolution and methods of corrosion measurement and the knowledge of other surface denudation mechanisms.
  • Understanding the basics of karst hydrology, including knowledge of the characteristics and importance of hydrographic zones in the karst on the flow of water in the karst aquifer.
  • Knowledge of the factors that accelerate karst processes, which can lead to sudden events that can potentially endanger human lives and property.
  • Understanding the processes that form caves and knowing the factors on the basis of which caves can be typified.
  • Awareness of the importance of caves for science and economy and the knowledge of cave protection techniques.
  • Ability to distinguish between basic surface karst forms in Slovenia and around the world according to their morphology and the ability to interpret their origin and development, including the identification of potentials for their use for scientific or economic purposes.
  • Understanding of critical processes and factors influencing the vulnerability of the karst, and knowledge of the concepts of sustainable management of karst landscapes, which ensure long-term successful use of natural resources from the karst.



Oral exam (80 %), practival (20 %).