Projects / Programmes source: ARIS

Karst Research

Research activity

Code Science Field Subfield
6.12.00  Humanities  Geography   

Code Science Field
5.07  Social Sciences  Social and economic geography 
Karstology, karst phenomena, karst landscape, karst geology, karst geomorphology, speleology, cave sediments, cave climate, carbon cycle, karst hydrogeology, karst biology, microbiology, karst ecology, planning of life on karst, protection of karst, teaching about karst and caves
Evaluation (rules)
source: COBISS
Data for the last 5 years (citations for the last 10 years) on September 27, 2023; A3 for period 2017-2021
Data for ARIS tenders ( 04.04.2019 – Programme tender , archive )
Database Linked records Citations Pure citations Average pure citations
WoS  340  5,255  4,367  12.84 
Scopus  417  6,562  5,410  12.97 
Researchers (24)
no. Code Name and surname Research area Role Period No. of publicationsNo. of publications
1.  37554  PhD Matej Blatnik  Geography  Researcher  2022 - 2023  193 
2.  16180  PhD Franci Gabrovšek  Mechanics  Researcher  2022 - 2023  449 
3.  11067  PhD Martin Knez  Geography  Researcher  2022 - 2023  694 
4.  06382  PhD Janja Kogovšek  Geology  Retired researcher  2022 - 2023  554 
5.  36395  PhD Peter Kozel  Biology  Researcher  2022 - 2023  66 
6.  00986  PhD Andrej Kranjc  Geography  Retired researcher  2022 - 2023  1,432 
7.  50576  PhD Lovel Kukuljan  Geology  Junior researcher  2022  65 
8.  38914  PhD Cyril Mayaud  Geology  Researcher  2022 - 2023  131 
9.  20220  PhD Janez Mulec  Biology  Researcher  2022 - 2023  477 
10.  50840  PhD Magdalena Năpăruş-Aljančič  Geography  Researcher  2022 - 2023  118 
11.  54770  Uroš Novak  Natural sciences and mathematics  Junior researcher  2022 - 2023  23 
12.  14851  PhD Bojan Otoničar  Geology  Researcher  2022 - 2023  248 
13.  12605  PhD Metka Petrič  Geology  Researcher  2022 - 2023  518 
14.  15687  PhD Tanja Pipan  Natural sciences and mathematics  Researcher  2022 - 2023  383 
15.  25648  PhD Mitja Prelovšek  Geography  Researcher  2022 - 2023  257 
16.  56873  Sara Skok  Natural sciences and mathematics  Junior researcher  2022 - 2023  25 
17.  08099  PhD Tadej Slabe  Geography  Researcher  2022 - 2023  679 
18.  18811  Sonja Stamenković    Technical associate  2022 - 2023 
19.  55884  Filip Šarc  Geology  Junior researcher  2022 - 2023 
20.  10443  PhD Stanka Šebela  Geology  Researcher  2022 - 2023  518 
21.  52013  Astrid Švara  Geography  Researcher  2022 - 2023  52 
22.  52015  PhD Lara Valentić  Biology  Researcher  2022  22 
23.  22574  PhD Nataša Viršek Ravbar  Geography  Head  2022 - 2023  463 
24.  01004  PhD Nadja Zupan Hajna  Geography  Researcher  2022 - 2023  467 
Organisations (1)
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  61,142 
The Karst Research programme is being implemented by members of the Karst Research Institute, which boasts over 70 years of tradition in developing karstology, a location in the centre of the Classical Karst, and the seat of the International Union of Speleology. It is organized in the form of the "knowledge triangle", comprising research, innovation and education. It is founded on comprehensive development of karstology as a special branch of science, in which approaches of different disciplines are intertwined. We are conducting basic interdisciplinary research of karst features and processes, and ecological studies of karst; we are developing regional karstology and striving for the protection of natural heritage. By implementing international or national projects in parallel, we are achieving excellent scientific results regarding the karstification processes on the surface and in caves. We are studying the evolution of the karst landscape and by studying cave sediments, epigenic, hypogenic, hydrothermal caves, and by monitoring active tectonic structures, we are deepening our knowledge of geological, geomorphological and palaeoclimatic evolution of select areas. By monitoring natural and artificial tracers and digital modelling, we are researching the dynamics of the water flow and the mass transport through karst aquifers. We are examining the selective factors leading to various morphological adaptations of organisms by conducting ecological research of subterranean habitats. We are examining the condition of the environment and the human impact by monitoring the cave climate and the vitality of the populations. We are also conducting applied studies that stem from our knowledge and understanding of karst in order to enable prudent planning of life on karst, the use of natural resources, and sustainable development. Our development of innovative solutions is often internationally transferable. The programme members are involved with different higher education institutions and are implementing the doctoral study programme, accredited as the UNESCO Chair on Karst Education. For nearly 30 years, we have been organizing the International Karstological School, the main annual meeting of karstologists. The programme is the foundation for the infrastructural, documentary and publishing activities of the Institute. For nearly 70 years, we have been issuing the central karstological journal Acta Carsologica, listed in SCI, and the book series Carsologica. We are managing a Karstological Library, a geology, biology, microbiology and chemistry laboratory with state-of-the-art equipment, and, in cooperation with the Speleological Association of Slovenia, the Cave Registry. The Institute is the national coordinator of the European research infrastructures eLTER ESFRI, LifeWatch ERIC, and EPOS ERIC. Our work is highly international; we are supporting the development of karstology in many countries and are connecting karstologists from all over the world.
Significance for science
Understanding the causes and effects of processes in karst environment, of dynamic interactions between them, and of complex feedback mechanisms requires multi- and interdisciplinary scientific approaches. The importance of the Karst Research programme lies in development of karstology as a special branch of science, in which knowledge of different disciplines (e.g. geography, geology, chemistry, physics, biology) are intertwined. We study karst comprehensively as a three-dimensional space in which we explore interactions between rocks, soils, water, air and living organisms. Our involvement in international scientific circles is a foundation for the development of the leading karstology. It enables us to constantly exchange and test new ideas with renowned karst researchers. In the next research period, we will focus on the following specific topics that are considered breakthrough topics in science: understand the processes of formation and development of surface karst features and caves; groundwater flow, and transport of soluble and insoluble substances, air, and energy; and understand karst ecology, biology, and distribution of organisms. Modernly designed laboratory and computer models of karst surface formation will enable a comprehensive understanding of its evolution and not, as was mostly the case so far, a description of the current condition. They will enable comparison of evolution on different carbonate rocks and under different conditions. Based on field research and using modern tools, we will gain new knowledge of structural and geological composition of karst terrains, improving our understanding of the impact of tectonic structures on the evolution of the karst surface and of subterranean features. We will develop globally unique approach, which bases on an interdisciplinary analysis of sediments and construction of chronostratigraphic and palaeoclimatic profiles, supported by magnetostratigraphic correlations and use of calibrated dating methods. The research results will provide continuous records of karstification processes and of climate and tectonic events occurring in different periods of the Cenozoic. Analyses of sedimentary sequences, which include flowstones, allogenic sediments and palaeontological remains, will have a potential for improving our chronological understanding and of the age of processes within the region and worldwide. The close integration of the geological and speleological research results, data from the monitoring network of hydrological measurements, artificial and natural tracers, and of the results supported by computer models of the groundwater flow and mass transport of in karst, which will be employed in the new programme period, will bring considerable progress in the research of karst aquifers. Such a comprehensive approach is innovative on a global scale. We will stem from our knowledge of aquifer geometry and of hydrological connections at the local scale; the expected result will be a better understanding of the aquifer's hydraulic properties and an improved conceptual model of the aquifer on the regional scale. Based on that, we will build a better understanding of the characteristics of the transport of contaminants (e.g. heavy metals, microplastics, microorganisms) through the karst aquifer, which is a prerequisite for the proper protection and preservation of the karst water resources quality. We will also focus on the composition of the atmosphere and the dynamics of airflow in the karst vadose zone. We will determine the mechanisms and factors influencing dynamics and properties of subterranean atmosphere, and atmosphere's impact on karstification processes. We will assess the impact of tourism on the microclimate of show caves and compare the impact of visitors on the cave climate prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, when visits were booming, and during the pandemic, when the caves were closed. The identification and evaluation of the consequences of anthropogenic impacts on structure and dynamics of specific subterranean species and populations caused by tourist use of caves will be based on speleobiological information we are gathering. It is a well-known fact that karst and caves provide extreme living conditions to certain organisms. Despite the intensive development of the biology of subterranean habitats in recent years, certain areas are still relatively poorly researched, e.g. the evolution, ecology and biology of subterranean species, species distribution, etc. This gap will be filled in the next research period. We will select karst ecosystems as a model for studying the adaptation of organisms to the subterranean environment, their life cycles, the preservation and exchange of genetic information, and the role of microorganisms in natural processes. In addition, we will edit and publish the international IF journal Acta Carsologica, thus ensuring the preservation and development of karstological publishing. Being part of the European research infrastructure eLTER ESFRI, LifeWatch ERIC and EPOS ERIC allowed us to acquire state-of-the-art research equipment that enables us to achieve breakthrough research results. Seeing that we have created a great deal of digital research data over the last 20 years, we will combine them in a newly designed Karstological Database and harmonize them with the FAIR principles. The basic concepts of the database will be usable as models for other karst-rich countries. This way, we will open up the possibilities of interdisciplinary research in the rapidly developing field of spatial research on a global scale, and of development of new research directions. The proposed research will be a significant upgrade of previous and ongoing national and international projects. The programme will follow the research trends in different scientific fields, set forth guidelines for the development of international scientific approaches, and promote the development of karstological knowledge worldwide.
Significance for the country
The research we are conducting under the Karst Research programme addresses the bulk of global social challenges: the supply of drinking water and green energy; sustainable management of natural resources; adapting to the effects of environmental changes; personnel development. The research results will primarily serve the public interest, as they are important for raising the overall quality of life. In 2015, the World Economic Forum found that the lack of quality water will greatly affect the economy and society. Karst water resources are also exposed to various risks. The proposed research will enable better understanding of the characteristics of the groundwater flow and transport of substances in karst aquifers, which is a prerequisite for their proper use and protection. The findings obtained will be important for ensuring safe access to drinking water in Slovenia, where half of the drinking water needs are met by karst aquifers. As it is estimated that they cover about a quarter of the needs on the global scale, and as much as half of the needs in Europe, the main concepts will be transferable to other karst-rich countries. The special geological, geomorphological, hydrological, pedological, botanical and zoological conditions are the reason that karst contains very important natural heritage sites. On account of its specific processes, the karst is highly sensitive to contamination or destruction. Once karst landscape has been degraded, it is very hard or impossible to restore its original condition. Owing to uncontrolled human actions, negative impacts are becoming increasingly common and extensive, but only understanding of karst is a prerequisite for its protection. By performing regular karstological supervision, discovering and studying karst features for more than 40 years, we are participating in the planning and monitoring of the construction of traffic roads which pass through karst, and are looking for technological and sustainable solutions. We help bridge karst structures and ensure that they are preserved as much as possible. Special attention is focused on the impact of construction on karst aquifers. In the future, we will continue our karstological monitoring and facilitate the search for the best technological solutions for the construction of the second track of the Divača - Koper railway line, the most important construction project in the country. As cave tourism is becoming an increasingly important sector at home and abroad. We will continue our monitoring of tourist use of caves (e.g. Postojnska Jama, Škocjanske Jame) in the next programme period. That way, we will help to maintain the good ecological status of the caves, and prepare and potentially carry out additional mitigation measures, e.g. reducing the footprint of tourists and light eutrophication, and environmentally friendly maintenance of cave infrastructure. We expect that the above-mentioned research will provide information that is needed for the long-term planning of cave management, and will help to mitigate the effects of mass tourism, and to achieve the sustainable use of show caves in Slovenia and elsewhere. Based on biological inventorying and a survey of the condition, we will make a key contribution to understanding the dynamics of the karst environment and envisage potential scenarios that will affect the health of ecosystems and people, which is in line with the national strategy "One Health". An important objective of the programme is the transfer of knowledge from the research to the management level. The findings relevant for a more effective protection of natural karst resources will be useful for the authorities regulating the norms and conditions of environmental protection at national or local level. The legislation regulating the conservation and protection of the natural environment, development planning, water supply, other anthropogenic activities and infrastructure, and especially the development of the economy, often turns out to be insufficient for karst areas, which is a common problem in Slovenia and Europe. Our activities will provide the government with new scientific perspectives and expert recommendations for spatial planning adapted to environmental changes, as well as additional knowledge of the sustainable management of natural resources. We will present our results to the broader expert community also at the annual International Karstological School. Since 1965, the Karst Research Institute has functioned as the seat of the International Union of Speleology, which unites speleologists and cavers throughout the world, promotes cooperation between academic and technical speleologists of different nationalities to ensure development and harmonization of international speleology in all its scientific, technical, cultural and economic aspects. The scientific experience and knowledge gained under the research programme will be incorporated into the study programmes of various higher education institutions, where programme members group are active as lecturers and mentors. By developing our own study programmes, such as the master's study programme Earth and Environmental Sciences and the doctoral study programme Environmental and Regional Studies at the Postgraduate School ZRC SAZU, we are also enabling the development of new personnel and human resources. The doctoral study programme Karstology, which was developed by programme members, has been accredited at the Graduate School, University of Nova Gorica, and established as the UNESCO Chair on Karst Education. It offers doctoral scholarships to candidates from countries on the OECD's DAC List of ODA Recipients. The proposed activities are harmonized with national research and development programme. The results will contribute to increasing competitiveness and innovativeness of Slovenia in the field of natural heritage protection and will be important for Slovenia's reputation as a karst and karstological country.
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