Shallow subterranean habitats: ecology, evolution, and conservation


Environmental and Regional Studies (3rd level)

Biodiversity and ecology (3rd Cycle)

Course code: DIB08
Year of study: without

Course principal:
Prof. Tanja Pipan, Ph. D.


Workload: lectures 30 hours, seminar 15 hours, other learning forms 15 hours, individual work 120 hours
Course type: modul elective
Languages: Slovene, English
Learning and teaching methods: lectures, field lectures, individual work on a selected investigation and its presentation as a seminar work, e-learning


Course syllabus (download)


Finished bachelors or masters degree in Biology or equivalent program of study.


Content (Syllabus outline):

The following chapters from a narrow scope of ecology and biology of shallow subterranean habitats (SSHs) are included: introduction of different types of aquatic and terrestrial SSHs: seepage springs and the hypotelminorheic habitat, epikarst, talus slopes and MSS habitat, hyporheic and lava tubes. Each habitat is presented using examples from all over the world, basic chemical and physical parameters are given: hydrology, evolution, geographic scope, analogues with other habitats, and biological characteristics: organic carbon, history of biological studies, methods for collecting fauna, diversity and ecology, morphology and adaptations, biogeography.



  • Culver, D. C., & Pipan, T. (2014). Shallow Subterranean Habitats. Ecology, Evolution, and Conservation. Oxford University Press, Oxford.
  • Culver, D. C., & Pipan, T. (2009). The Biology of Caves and Other Subterranean Habitats. Oxford University Press, Oxford.
  • Pipan, T. (2005). Epikarst – a promising habitat. Copepod fauna, its diversity and ecology: a case study from Slovenia (Europe). Založba ZRC, Ljubljana.
  • White, W. B., & Culver, D. C. (2012). Encyclopedia of Caves. Izbrana poglavja/Selected chapters. Second Edition. Elsevier, Amsterdam.
  • Selected articles from scientific journals.


Objectives and competences:

The main goal of this course is to provide students with knowledge of aquatic and terrestrial types of shallow subterranean habitats, understanding of basic physico-chemical and biological differences between deep and shallow subterranean habitats, understanding of biology, ecology, and evolution of shallow subterranean habitats (SSHs) and their conservation aspects. Students develop the ability to recognize basic ecological differences between deep and shallow subterranean habitats, acquire the basic principles of obtaining ecological data in SSHs and their interpretation. They are trained to execute ecological investigations in SSHs.


Intended learning outcomes:

Students obtain theoretical and practical knowledge about terrestrial (epikarst, talus slopes, MSS, lava tubes) and aquatic shallow subterranean habitats (hypotelminorheic, epikarst, calcrete aquifers, hyporheic), their physico-chemical and biological characteristics, based on the measurements of specific cases, dependence of subterranean habitats from surface, ecology, biology and evolution of SSHs, and specific fauna. Students get familiar with new approaches in direction of biological and ecological research in shallow subterranean habitats, new methodology of sampling, standardization of results and databases.



Short written seminar and its presentation (50 %), examination (50 %).