Projects / Programmes source: ARIS

Karst research for sustainable use of Škocjan Caves as World heritage

Research activity

Code Science Field Subfield
1.06.00  Natural sciences and mathematics  Geology   

Code Science Field
P000  Natural sciences and mathematics   

Code Science Field
1.05  Natural Sciences  Earth and related Environmental sciences 
Interdisciplinary karst research, microclimate, measurement systems, numerical weather forecasts, artificial neural networks, sustainable cave use
Evaluation (rules)
source: COBISS
Researchers (18)
no. Code Name and surname Research area Role Period No. of publicationsNo. of publications
1.  11773  PhD Marija Zlata Božnar  Physics  Researcher  2017 - 2020  269 
2.  17548  Leon Drame    Technical associate  2017 - 2020  47 
3.  17549  Franjo Drole    Technical associate  2017 - 2020  105 
4.  16180  PhD Franci Gabrovšek  Mechanics  Researcher  2017 - 2020  450 
5.  27664  PhD Boštjan Grašič  Physics  Researcher  2017 - 2020  173 
6.  11067  PhD Martin Knez  Geography  Researcher  2017 - 2020  696 
7.  09652  PhD Andrej Mihevc  Geography  Researcher  2017 - 2020  793 
8.  04290  PhD Primož Mlakar  Physics  Researcher  2017 - 2020  266 
9.  20220  PhD Janez Mulec  Biology  Researcher  2017 - 2020  479 
10.  14851  PhD Bojan Otoničar  Geology  Researcher  2017 - 2020  256 
11.  12605  PhD Metka Petrič  Geology  Researcher  2017 - 2020  524 
12.  15687  PhD Tanja Pipan  Natural sciences and mathematics  Researcher  2017 - 2020  384 
13.  25648  PhD Mitja Prelovšek  Geography  Researcher  2017 - 2020  258 
14.  08099  PhD Tadej Slabe  Geography  Researcher  2017 - 2020  682 
15.  10443  PhD Stanka Šebela  Geology  Head  2017 - 2020  520 
16.  22574  PhD Nataša Viršek Ravbar  Geography  Researcher  2017 - 2020  473 
17.  17552  Mateja Zadel    Technical associate  2017 - 2020 
18.  01004  PhD Nadja Zupan Hajna  Geography  Researcher  2017 - 2020  476 
Organisations (2)
no. Code Research organisation City Registration number No. of publicationsNo. of publications
1.  0618  Research Centre of the Slovenian Academy of Sciences and Arts  Ljubljana  5105498000  61,892 
2.  2574  MEIS environmental cosulting d.o.o.  Šmarje - Sap  2271478  302 
The Škocjan Caves are a part of the UNESCO World Heritage and Slovenia's pride. As a valuable natural asset and tourist caves, they should be protected. The IZRK ZRC SAZU, one of the world’s leading Karstology institutes, has thus proposed an interdisciplinary applied project called “Karst research for sustainable use of Škocjan Caves as World heritage”. The project also involves applied meteorologists and engineers of RO MEIS. Microclimate changes have a long-term impact on the cave environment. Negative impacts pose a risk to the preservation of the global heritage. The research aims to determine the actual state of the karst in the Škocjan Caves and surface, perform system measurements (meteorology and hydrology), identify the current tourism impact, and determine the best methodology and measures for sustainable use of the tourist cave. Interdisciplinary methods should be karst-based studies since this is a complex system involving both past geological and current events, e.g. flowstone growth, flowstone deposition in rimstone pools, active flooding. The innovative interdisciplinary approach for solving the karst problem should impact the solving of similar cases world-wide. We shall analyse meteorological atmospheric conditions above the cave, compare them against the cave’s microclimate, and evaluate the potential effect of climate changes on the cave. The monitoring of the cave's climate and of hydrological conditions of the Reka River shall enable long-term monitoring of various parameters, analysis, and data collection. The monitoring shall include the DTN internet technology for data collection as it is also suitable for karst caves. It is an innovative technology that should impact the development of new research branches in terms of automatically collected data measurements in extreme and remote cave environments. Measurements of CO2 (both as a natural and anthropogenic source) in the cave shall be carried out which should help understand the sources and sinks of CO2 in the karst in relation to the global climate changes. The project goal is to use modern karst research methods (determination of geological structure and development of the karst phenomena, speleo- (micro)biology, cave climate monitoring (on-line systems connected wirelessly/via optical fibres for monitoring micro-meteorological parameters), geochemical modelling of percolated water, numerical hydraulic modelling (the Reka River flooding model), and the method of data display (e.g. spatial presentation of geological structures). The latter shall visually emphasize the connection between the initial geological structures (fault structures and tectonised bedding) and the initial development of cave channels or preferential scope of the water basin of percolated water inflow, and serve as an interactive and innovative teaching tool. Flooding probability model, built using the perceptron neural network is also a global innovation. For the difficult parts of automated monitoring, the DTN technology of data transfer shall be used, a global novelty first tested in Slovenia. The work shall include 5 WP: WP1 – Karstological knowledge base about the protected area of the Škocjan Caves Park as a basis for nature protection monitoring (incl. living and non-living nature) WP2 – Monitoring of cave climate and impact of tourism WP3 – Understanding the hydrology of the Reka River and of percolating water WP4 – Guidelines for sustainable use of the Škocjan Caves Park WP5 – Dissemination of results Interdisciplinary Karstological knowledge base of the IZRK, obtained both locally and globally, and meteorological knowledge base of MEIS, including forecasting the local climate in a detailed resolution above rough terrain, is the prerequisite for the project about such a difficult subject, i.e. studies for sustainable use of the UNESCO World Heritage. The project shows a strong connection between the knowledge base and its application for the protection of the UNESCO
Significance for science
The project is an interdisciplinary characterization of the key environmental (geological, geomorphological, meteorological, hydrological, and biological) parameters of the Škocjan Caves. Methodologically, the approach needs to be multidisciplinary. The integrity and interdisciplinary connections will be presented using quantity-based conceptual and computer-aided spatial models. The results should provide a better understanding of the karst processes, improve the knowledge about matter and energy flow through the karst system, provide a basis for further studies and for a scientific support for evaluating the current impact of the anthropogenic use of the cave and for developing measures for a sustainable use of the cave. The applicability aspect of the studies shall be generally applicable to a scientifically supported strategy for managing caves both in Slovenia and around the world. A group of experienced researchers from the company MEIS d.o.o. whose primary area of research is meteorology shall partake by setting up micrometeorological monitoring in a technologically demanding terrain (condensation, flooding, no GSM coverage for wireless data transfer). To predict the extent of groundwater flooding of the Reka River, the historical meteorological and hydrological data shall be used; these are partly publicly available, and some of the data were collected during past projects with other institutions. The forecast of meteorological parameters in fine resolution for the immediate area of the cave or of the water basin shall be used as input data for a future flooding forecast. To predict the water level/probability of flooding, artificial neural networks shall be used as a universal non-linear approximator which can re-calculate correctly refined various data into desired information. The forecast regarding the water level shall be supplemented with monitoring of the percolated water. This approach is new in the field of safety for tourist visitations of the karst caves. The members of MEIS are world renowned pioneers in the field of neural networks application for forecasting atmospheric pollution. The communication among measuring stations is carried out using an automated approach based on the DTN technology. This technology seeks to add the key missing element to the regular internet – i.e. DTN which enables marginal groups that, due to various reasons (either geographic, economic, or political) do not and will not have access to the broadband internet connection, to be integrated into the information society. Thus, the use of this technology to collect data about the control of the microclimate in tourist (and other) karst caves contributes to two major global goals: (i) flexible and affordable technology for microclimate control for the purposes of tourist caves and (ii) further in-situ development of the DTN technology for remote geographic areas. The project has sparked an interest of the Yunnan University (China).
Significance for the country
Because caves take millions of years to develop and due to significant suppression of external factors, they are extremely sensitive areas that require a sustainable use. This is particularly true of the caves protected by UNESCO that are subject to intensive tourist use. Assessing the existing negative impacts on the Škocjan Caves and determining the measures for reducing these impacts shall contribute to a sustainable economic use of the caves in the future. The measuring network allows the manager better monitoring and management even after the project concludes. Project partners have implemented a similar technology development approach in a project in the Postojna Cave (MEIS d.o.o., IZRK ZRC SAZU). The results shall help increase the competitiveness and innovation of Slovenia in the field of sustainable use of tourist caves. Around 130,000 visitors who annually visit the Škocjan Caves shall benefit from the project's improved and nature conservation-oriented experience. The flooding forecast information system shall provide a safer use of the beautiful water passage of the Reka River. The proposed project has value for both operators who successfully collaborated on past projects. To IZRK ZRC SAZU, the research resources shall enable a major progress in technology development and an opportunity to apply their knowledge base. To MEIS d.o.o., the project partner, the research resources shall enable a similar progress in order to: • Upgrade the models for the movement of air masses and the energy balance for special closed and semi-closed atmospheres of big karst caves, • Upgrade the testing environment for infrastructure measuring systems in special environments and for big micrometeorological databases, • Research new options for the DTN internet technology and its re-introduction for both Earth and Space applications where this technology stems from. In times when Slovenia is still facing the aftermath of the recession, it is important for MEIS to contribute to the results of the research project since this is the way to, in the long run, retain the knowledge and the employees and to overcome the issues of the delayed impacts of the recession. So far, the main source of income for MEIS have been product marketing, the European research projects, and major national applied research projects. The project goals are in line with the guidelines of the Regional Development Programme for Primorsko-Notranjska region 2014-2020. Results are of public interest as they are important for raising the quality of life and preserving and developing protected parts of the natural environment. The findings shall have a direct applicability for the co-financiers and national and local bodies (ministries, ARSO, ZRSVN, municipalities) responsible for planning the activities that affect the karst. Due to the long-term successful scientific and professional collaboration with the IZRK ZRC SAZU, the Javni zavod Škocjanske jame suggested to co-finance this project.
Most important scientific results Interim report, final report
Most important socioeconomically and culturally relevant results Interim report, final report
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