Projects / Programmes source: ARIS

Sulphur springs in Slovenia from karstological point of view and their microbiota

Research activity

Code Science Field Subfield
6.12.00  Humanities  Geography   

Code Science Field
P005  Natural sciences and mathematics  Geology, physical geography 
karst, speleogenesis, sulphur, energy source, matter cycle, microbiota
Evaluation (rules)
source: COBISS
Researchers (11)
no. Code Name and surname Research area Role Period No. of publicationsNo. of publications
1.  16180  PhD Franci Gabrovšek  Mechanics  Researcher  2008 - 2011  450 
2.  11067  PhD Martin Knez  Geography  Researcher  2008 - 2011  696 
3.  06382  PhD Janja Kogovšek  Geology  Researcher  2010 - 2011  554 
4.  00986  PhD Andrej Kranjc  Geography  Researcher  2008 - 2011  1,432 
5.  20220  PhD Janez Mulec  Biology  Head  2008 - 2011  479 
6.  15687  PhD Tanja Pipan  Natural sciences and mathematics  Researcher  2008 - 2011  384 
7.  25648  PhD Mitja Prelovšek  Geography  Junior researcher  2008 - 2009  258 
8.  08099  PhD Tadej Slabe  Geography  Researcher  2008 - 2011  682 
9.  10443  PhD Stanka Šebela  Geology  Researcher  2008 - 2011  520 
10.  17552  Mateja Zadel    Technical associate  2008 - 2011 
11.  01004  PhD Nadja Zupan Hajna  Geography  Researcher  2008 - 2011  477 
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  61,981 
The literature about the Slovenian sulphur springs is scarce. H2S mixed with water in the spring is in colloquial language considered a »sulphur spring« what is for Slovenia a unique phenomenon. In Slovenia we do not have a high number of sulphur springs – interesting hydrological features which are often overlooked. With their study we can get some interesting and important findings, even from the speleogenetic point of view. After setting of the springs at the regional level we will continue with the study of inhabiting community of micro-organisms. Sulphur springs are often intimately connected with underground aquifers and microbial communities that colonize this environment are very sensitive to any kind of disturbances, especially to surface pollution. Slovenian natural heritage including sulphur springs must be appropriately inventoried and scientific breakthrough regarding understanding their abiotic and biotic characteristics on the site must be conducted. Sulphur springs are often intimately connected with such underground aquifers where possibility of using geothermal energy, e.g. heating, exists.
Significance for science
This project opens a new interdisciplinary area of research with the simultaneous co-operation of experts from geography, geology, karstology, biology, microbiology and molecular biology. To understand the integrity of complex ecosystems it is crucial to adopt the appropriate research methods from different scientific disciplines. This includes not only optimization of already existing research methods, but sometimes involves also development of new ones. The project provides significant contributions in completion of knowledge on extreme habitats on the Earth, especially regarding interactions between eukaryotic organisms with prokaryotes as well as other abiotic parametres of environment. The extremes of certain environment can be referred to the prevailing factors in the environment which represent an exceptional stress for many organisms. In many cases these are the crucial factors directing that some species in certain environment do not survive, or are not present. Sulphidic karst springs represent a window to observe underground conditions in a karst aquifer. These are sites where hypogean and epigean species come into contact. For sulphidic systems, one of the consequences of chemolithoautotrophic primary productivity is an increase in the queality and quantity of organic carbon. This rich and abundant food source may have a significant impact on biodiversity and an organisms's ability to endure habitat stresses. Transformations of sulphur compounds are complicated in nature, even more because these compounds can adopt different oxidation states. Micro-organisms are involved in many of these oxido-reduction transformations. Sulphidic habitats, especially caves and karst aquifers, are rich in diverse fauna. It is worth stressing that such habitats have a potential of harbouring new organisms, not yet described. On the other hand they clearly reflect condition and state in the underground habitat which is inaccessible for direct examination. Furthermore, simultaneous study and monitoring of different physical and chemical parameters give us a clearer idea of the hydrological situation in the system, although sometimes we cannot explain oscillations of some parameters in these environments due to lack of such studies. Sulphidic springs in karst areas are not very frequent phenomena, and for this reason the principle of sustainable management of the springs and surrounding areas must be of high importance. It is very important to do the scientific evaluation of springs before starting any activities in the area of springs. The results from this project are important not only for scientific dissemination of new knowledge on the sulphidic springs, but are also important for managers of wider and closer areas of such springs to be aware of the importance of co-operation with the scientific community who can in exchange offer answers regarding the peculiarities of this environment which represent an insight into special underground conditions. Even more such places are highly vulnerable with high potential of broad diversity. Sulphidic springs in karst are certainly exceptional karst phenomena.
Significance for the country
Slovenia is from the landscape perspective very diverse and is thus important for researchers of different scientific disciplines. This was also indicated in this project dealing with sulphidic springs in karst areas from the karstology point of view. In the project various methodological principles of research was adopted, which are offered by different scientific disciplines: geography, geology, karstology, biology, microbiology and molecular biology. Although there are not many natural sulphidic springs in karst in Slovenia, this natural phenomenon should be exposed as special natural heritage. Despite the small size of Slovenia and a tradition of studying of karst phenomena in our territory, it is important that we at least follow global trends in the area of research of the most prosperous and interesting natural environments. It has to be stressed that this project disseminates knowledge of extreme habitats in Slovenia, and furthermore the interactions between eukaryotic organisms with prokaryotes as well as other abiotic parametres of environment. The project provides additional information to the knowledge of extreme habitats on the Earth. Sulphidic karst springs represent a natural window into the underground and display conditions in the karst aquifer. With their examination we can get feedback information on potential influences from the surface on the underground, which is otherwise inaccessible for direct sampling and studying. Reduced forms of sulphur represent an energy source for microbiota which in turn ensure a food source for organisms which are higher in the food chain. Microorganisms are involved in many of these oxido-reduction transformations. Sulphidic habitats, e.g. caves, aquifers and springs, are many times more rich in diverse organisms. These habitats have a potential of harbouring new, not yet described organisms. On the other hand such habitats represent considerable stress for many organisms (for example low concentration of oxygen, high concentration of hydrogen sulphide). As in Slovenia we do not posess much experience in studying extreme environments of sulphidic springs, we transferred principles of good laboratory and research practice from abroad. During the project it was realized that only long-term monitoring and analysis of physical and chemical parameters in the environment is important to understand dynamics in the underground hydrological situation and eventual interpretation of lithological and tectonical changes in the Earth's crust. Although in Slovenia there are not many natural sulphidic springs in karst areas, this natural phenomenon must be highlighted as a special natural heritage. This should be considered from the perspective of potential hazard for the springs, because it has been shown that vicinity of some of them is subjected to notable anthropogenic impacts. All this exhibits the need to adopt principles of sustainable management for such natural phenomena, their conservation and popularization in society. The project significantly contributes in promotion of Slovenia as a karst and karstological country.
Most important scientific results Annual report 2008, 2009, final report, complete report on dLib.si
Most important socioeconomically and culturally relevant results Annual report 2008, 2009, final report, complete report on dLib.si
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