LTER-Slovenija: Project Overview

Please note that this overview comes directly from the ILTER application from September 2003 and has not been updated to reflect later changes to the composition of the network. In particular, as new institutions join the network, they gain a representative on the national committee, which is not properly reflected here.

Participating institutions in LTER-Slovenija:

  • Institutes within the Scientific Research Centre of the Slovenian Academy of Sciences and Arts (ZRC SAZU):
    • Karst Research Institute, ZRC SAZU
    • Jovan Hadži Institute of Biology, ZRC SAZU
    • Institute of Anthropological and Spatial Studies, ZRC SAZU
    • Anton Melik Geographical Institute, ZRC SAZU
  • National Institute of Biology
  • Environmental Agency of the Republic ofSlovenia


  1. Introduction
  2. Mission Statement and broad project outline of LTER-Slovenija
  3. Description of the LTER site
  4. Scope of research
  5. National committee members
  6. Data management policy
  7. Overview participating institutions – including past and ongoing research


1. Introduction:

In order to pool resources in Slovenia pool resources in the field of socio-ecological research and to promote international networking, we have inaugurated the LTER-Slovenija project. This is a group of several institutions with support from the Ministry of Education, Science and Sport and the Environmental Agency of the Republic of Slovenia.

Because this is a new collaborative effort without a past history of joint research among the various institutions, we begin by presenting in Section 2 the clear Statement of Purpose we have adopted in order to unify and focus our efforts. Our mission in brief is to be the main coordinating body for networked socio-ecological research in Slovenia, which entails both running our own research program and coordinating our research with partners abroad.

In Section 3 we describe the initial site we have chose for beginning our collaborative research effort. The starting network site is the Karst region of Slovenia, which is one of the most important focal points of karst research in the world. We have chosen this site since we already have good infrastructure in place for networking our activities in this field.

In Section 4 we describe the initial program for research at this site. The research program has been chosen because it fits in well with work already being done at the various participating institutes and is compatible with research efforts abroad.

Section 5 is a brief presentation of the National Committee for overseeing LTER activities in Slovenia. Each of the participating institutes is represented on the committee, which oversees the operation of the consortium.

Section 6 is a presentation of our policies for data management. Our data management arrangement is designed to be consistent with the general data management practices of the ILTER network.

Section 7 is a description of the participating institutions including a description of previous and ongoing work relevant to LTER research. This section is a demonstration of our capabilities in carrying out research in this field.

All of us are very enthusiastic about this opportunity to share ideas and research experiences with our colleagues involve, and so we are pleased that the Ministry of Education, Science and Sport has agreed to formally endorse our ILTER application. This endorsment is included as Section 8, and concludes our application.


2. Mission Statement and broad project outline for LTER-Slovenija, the proposed Slovenian LTER network:

  1. Establishment of a network of sites to allow Slovenian scientists to address ecological issues on broad spatial and temporal scales in an interdisciplinary way.
    Corollary: To understand the role of biological diversity in ecosystem processes and in the provision of services to the biosphere, including humans.

  2. Create a legacy of well-designed and documented experiments and observations for future generations of society.

  1. Terrestrial and aquatic ecosystems, including managed ones.

  2. National: Comparisons within and across biomes.

  3. International: Comparison within and across biomes in different geographical areas.

  4. Representation of major biomes in Slovenia.

  1. Patterns and control of ecosystem primary productivity

  2. The role of biodiversity in the structure and functioning of ecosystem

  3. Patterns and frequency of ecosystem disturbance

  4. Effect of climate change on the structure and functioning of ecosystems

  5. Interactions at the interface level between managed and natural ecosystems

  6. Defining criteria for ecosystem management and conservation

D) IMPLEMENTATION STRATEGY (background and monitoring topic areas)
  1. Climate

  2. Soil characteristics

  3. Diversity per unit area

  4. Abundance of key populations

  5. Primary productivity

  6. Land use

  1. Networking

  2. Data base management

  3. Geographic information systems

  4. Modelling

  5. Plot, watershed, landscape

  1. Critical scientific mass

  2. Commitment to sharing of the resulting data and its long-term management.

  3. Participation of a Higher Level Institution, and evidence of its commitment

  4. Institutional longevity or security of site for the future.

  5. Adequate infrastructure and logistics

  6. Existing knowledge base (availability of long-term databases)


3. Description of the karst LTER site


Karst is a landmark of Slovenia. Karst covers 44 % of all land surface in Slovenia, with more than 8000 caves registered to date. Karst waters supply more than half of the population. The international term karst is derived from the name of Slovenian region Kras, such as karst phenomena, karst features, and even the relatively new branch of science, karstology.

Figure 1: Geographical position of Kras

Figure 1: Geographical position of Kras

Kras is a limestone plateau, lying above the Trieste bay, the northernmost part of the Adriatic sea. The Kras plateau stretches in the “Dinaric” direction (NW-SE). It is 40 km long and up to 13 km wide, covering about 440 km2. The 45° 45’ N parallel runs through the centre of the plateau and the 14° 00’ meridian east crosses it just east of Divača, a small town on the western edge of Kras. It belongs to the Mediterranean coastal area, but Mediterranean influences are tempered by its northern position and by the altitude of 200 to 500 m a.s.l. The Trieste bay and the low lying flysch country bound it to the SW. To the NW it is surrounded by the alluvial Friuli (river Soča - Isonzo) plain. Its NE side ends above the broad and low lying (100 m a.s.l.) alluvial and flysch Vipava valley. High (over 600 m a.s.l.) flysch relief separates Kras from the Pivka region. Towards the SE the border of Kras is well defined by the flysch Brkini hills and Reka river valley, while towards the limestone ridges of Čičarija, the Podgorski kras plateau and Materija dry valley the transition is less obvious (Mihevc et al. 1997).


The history of hydrogeological research on Kras

In the past, hydrogeological research on Kras was mostly directed to studies of the connection between the river Reka and the Timavo springs. This was speleological research mainly, but the first water tracing tests were also done (Schmidl 1851; Timeus 1910, 1928; Martel 1921; Oedl 1924; Bertarelli & Boegan 1926; Boegan 1938; Šerko 1946). Morelli (1954) started solving the problem by the use of geophysical methods. To define the characteristics of the aquifer system, numerous basic geological and hydrogeological studies were carried out (D’Ambrosi 1961; Bidovec 1957, 1965; Jenko 1959; Mosetti et al. 1963; Novak 1967). Within the research framework aimed at solving water supply problems in Kras, the Geological Survey, Ljubljana, did extensive geological and hydrogeological mapping of this area, and carried out tectonic studies using aerial and satellite pictures, geophysical, chemical and isotope analyses and research boreholes with related investigations (Drobne et al. 1977; Krivic et al. 1978; Krivic & Drobne 1979 and 1980; Krivic 1980). More recently, important pieces of knowledge on the karst aquifer were contributed by Krivic (1982a, 1982b, 1983), Kogovšek (1984), Pezdič et al. (1986), Cancian (1987), Flora & Longinelli (1989), Habič (1989, 1990), Gemiti (1994), Civita et al. (1995), Urbanc & Kristan (1998), and others, by studying hydrodynamics, water tracing tests, and physical-chemical and isotopic analyses.

Hydrogeological characteristics

By extensive research from various points of view related to water problematics in Kras, the hydrogeological properties of the area were rather well explained. Referring to geotectonical classification of Slovenia, Kras belongs to Adriatic-Dinaric tectonic plate, to the region of the Outer Dinarids. Kras belongs to a smaller tectonic unit called Trieste-Komen anticline. It consists of several smaller anticlines and synclines with Dinaric trending folds striking towards NW (Šebela 1997).

The Kras massif is also cut by numerous faults. The east-west trend predominates but faults may pass into Dinaric and sometimes cross-Dinaric directions. The Timavo springs and some karst caves with permanent water flow lie near the latter. Research related to water supply showed that in the area of Brestovica, waters primarily flow from north-north-west and the fissures of this trending are the most suitable for locating wells (Krivic 1980).

The Kras area displays distinctive karst landforms in limestone and dolomite. Rocks are typical of Cretaceous and Tertiary carbonate deposits of shallow, warm-water carbonate shelf environments. The central part of Kras is built by Cretaceous limestone and partly dolomite, more than 1000 m in thickness. The limestone is highly karstified and highly permeable. In the whole Kras area there are nearly 600 known caves. Dolomite layers are slightly less permeable and may play, when thicker, the role of a relative isolator. To the north in the Vipava valley and southwestwards at the coast, Cretaceous carbonate rocks pass into less permeable layers of Tertiary marl and tabular limestone and flysch, and on the south from Paleocene limestone to Eocene flysch. The Paleocene limestone is also fissured and karstified, while flysch layers act as an important impermeable dam surrounding the carbonate massif. Numerous sea springs and the system of the Timavo sources appear there, where flysch is interrupted (Novak 1993).

Figure 2: Hydrogeological map of Kras

1. highly permeable Cretaceous limestone, 2. slightly less permeable Cretaceous dolomite, 3. less permeable Paleocene rocks, 4. intergranular aquifer, 5. impermeable beds, 6. spring, 7. smaller spring, 8. pumping station, 9. underground connection established by water tracing, 10. presumed underground flow of the Reka river, 11. sinking stream, 12. superficial flow, 13. village with meteorological station, 14. village, 15. karst cave with a level of permanent flow at low water, 16. state border.

It is typical of Kras that there are no superficial streams. The main water vein is the river Reka that sinks into the Škocjan Caves and reappears again in the springs of the Trieste bay in Italy. The length of the underground flow that splits into two at the dolomite layer between Divača and Sežana is about 41 km. One part flows to the north of this layer, and the other flows through the Labodnica cave (Trebiciano Abyss) to the south of this dolomitic barrier, and further on close to the contact with flysch towards the springs of Timavo. The flows unite again before reappearing in the springs (Mosetti et al. 1963).

Comparison of the minimal discharges of the superficial Reka river flow, which may decline during droughts to below 1 m3s-1, and the Timavo springs with 9,1 m3s-1, indicates that the aquifer is substantially fed by other sources. Due to the high degree of karstification and consequently almost immediate infiltration and due to relatively high amounts of precipitation, the primary infiltration of rainwater is important. Using a numerical model its share was assessed to about 65 % (Civita et al. 1995). Most rainfall occurs in November, the spring maximum is in June. The driest month is February; in summer the least rain falls in July. Average annual precipitations in Kras vary from 1400 to 1650 mm.

Also the recharge from the rivers Vipava, Soča and Raša and from some smaller streams out of the karst basin (Sajevški Potok at the southern border of the Postojna basin, sinking streams near Dolenja Vas and Senožeče) was demonstrated by water tracing tests and changes in chemistry and temperature.

The water level lowers westwards and waters drain into the springs in the Trieste Bay. On the eastern part of the aquifer, water is found at 292 m a.s.l. during low water level in the cave Gabranca, and at 210 m in the Škocjan Caves. The water level lowers towards the Kačna Jama Cave to 156 m; and in the cave of Labodnica (Trebiciano Abyss), water is found at 12 m, while in the immediate vicinity of the Timavo springs at 0,4 m. A fast increase of this level is controlled by heavy rainfall, and at high waters the system is extremely saturated. The underground water level rises by 30 m in the western part and by more than 100 m at east in the cave of Labodnica (Trebiciano Abyss) and the Škocjan Caves (Civita et al. 1995). In such conditions the Reka river disappears into the Škocjan Caves with a discharge of about 305 m3s-1 and the Timavo springs yield 127 m3s-1. Extreme conditions usually last for a short time only, and average values are much smaller. In a thirty-year span from 1961-1990 the average discharge for the superficial stream of the Reka river was 8,3 m3s-1, and minimal discharge 0,18 m3s-1. Similar values are characteristic for time span of 1972-1983, which may be used for comparison with discharges at springs in the Trieste Bay for the same time (Civita et al. 1995). Mean discharge of the Reka river is thus 8,1 m3s-1, and due to additional inflows to the aquifer this amount of water increases at the Timavo springs to 30,2 m3s-1. Other permanent or seasonal springs nearby altogether collect 6 m3s-1. The minimal measured discharge of the Reka river in this interval was 0.18 m3s-1 and at the Timavo springs 9,1 m3s-1.

The flow velocity stated during the described water tracing tests in the recharge area of the Timavo springs (Civita et al. 1995) are controlled by hydrological conditions and vary between 80 and 90 mh-1 at low waters, 109 to 164 mh-1 at medium waters and surpass 300 mh-1 at high waters. Such velocities are typical of flows through karst passages and show good and fast communication of water within the treated aquifer. Slightly lower velocities were determined by tracing sinking streams from the non-karstic border (25 mh-1 - 136 mh-1).

Water supply

The Kras area is a typical landscape where problems of providing good drinking water have existed for a long time. The only water vein of this area is the Reka river, which sinks upon contact with karst at Škocjan village and reappears in Italy as Timavo in the Trieste Bay and in other smaller resurgences. These waters are partly captured as a sparse source for the Trieste water supply, and their use is limited due to rather poor quality.

There are no adequate superficial streams on the territory of Slovenia; and there are also no springs suitable for capture. So on the basis of previous research a water supply company decided to drill in the northern part of the Kras aquifer at Klariči, near Brestovica, and pump water from the bore-holes for the Kras water supply system. Due to great pumping height this water is rather expensive but in the given circumstances this is the most suitable source for supplying water to the five communes in this area. The bore-holes have been a part of the water supply system since 1983, and now up to 250 ls-1 of water can be pumped out. It meets the actual needs; since 1994 the system has been linked to the system of the Rižana water supply, and thus the surplus of pumped water may also be used to supply the Slovene Littoral.

The Škocjan Caves

The Škocjan Caves are one of the best swallow-caves; their unique location at the contact karst has qualified them to be listed among the UNESCO sites of Natural and Cultural World Heritage (Čarni et al. 2002; Slapnik 2002). People have always been closely attracted to the gorge where the river Reka disappears underground, and even more to the cave itself. The Reka sinks underground beneath a rock wall on the top of which is located the village of Škocjan (whence the name of the cave), reappears after a little more than 1 km at the bottom of two collapse dolines and then ultimately disappears through the cave entrance.

The Škocjan Caves are a system of ponor caves made by the Reka sinking river at the contact of impermeable Eocene flysch and Upper Cretaceous and Paleogene limestone. The Reka river flows from the springs below Mt. Snežnik along the 55 km long course as a superficial stream with a recharge area of around 350 km2. Upon contact with limestone after reaching the Kras the river does not erode only mechanically, it also deepens its bed by means of corrosion. In the first section on the limestone the Reka river flows through a 4 km long gorge at the end of which a mighty entrance once opened to the Škocjan Caves. A little further beyond the ponor the cave ceiling collapsed; the consequence are actual collapse dolines Velika Dolina (Great Doline; more than 200 m deep) and Mala Dolina (the Small one) divided by a natural arch, which is the only remaining part between them. Just above the cave and between the ponor and the walls of Mala Dolina lies the village of Škocjan. Close to the houses there is another entrance to the underground world, the shaft Okroglica, which finds its end underground by the Reka river. In the Velika Dolina, the Reka ultimately disappears underground and emerges on the surface in the Timavo springs in Italy. Between the last ponor and the siphon in the caves and beyond it the Reka river runs along an underground gorge 10-60 m wide and up to 140 m high. The length of the main channel is about 3,5 km, while the length of the system is 5800 m with 250 m of vertical difference between the highest entrance (Okroglica) and the lowest point in the caves. In some places, the gorge enlarges into extensive underground chambers, the largest of which is the Martelova Dvorana (Martel's Hall), 308 m long, 123 m wide (89 m on average), and 106 m high on average, with the highest point of the ceiling at 146 m. The largest cross-section measures 1,2 hectare, thus having a volume of about 2,2 million of m3 (Kranjc 1997).

The Reka river disappears underground at 317 m a.s.l., while the siphon in Martelova Dvorana lies at 214 m a.s.l. On the other side of the siphon another 200 m of active passage was explored. The gradient of the Reka between swallow-hole and siphon is considerable and water flows very rapidly. After heavy bursts of rain the water velocity starts to stagnate, and during floods the water level in the cave increases by more than 80 m. The highest water level occurred in 1826, when it was at 346 m a.s.l. The smallest discharge was 0,16 and the highest 387 m3s-1 (Habič et al. 1989), showing the torrential character of the stream. During drought the river Reka disappears in its riverbed about 5 km upstream the Škocjan showing that there are lower lying passages below the caves.


There are two main sources of pollution in Kras: First there is direct pollution due to karst surface pollution. A second source of karst pollution is polluted sinking streams; they do not receive pollution only in karst areas but may transport a considerable quantity of pollution from nearby non-karstic areas where they came from. This water is transported through the karst underground up to the next spring.

Percolation water quality in Škocjan Caves

As stated above, sometimes the rock structure is such that it allows only a slow percolation of rainwater from the surface underground, for we find numerous tiny trickles and drips in caves with discharge slightly varying over the year. In such cases one would expect that water percolation is slowest during the summer and winter droughts when water recharge is at its lowest and, in case of pollution, it would slowly penetrate into karst interior. Percolation through 100 m thick rock beds should take a month or even several months.

Elsewhere the water permeability is higher and during abundant rain when the transport of substances is rapid, eventual pollution from the surface could appear after several days. In underground caves, such as Škocjan Caves, we often meet larger trickles of percolation water draining a large amount of water underground. In cases of heavy rainfall, when discharge increases, their conduits can transport pollution from the surface in only a few days, and in some cases after just a few hours.

During our research of water quality within Kras we recorded cases of stronger pollution which was either associated with inhabited surface or due to runoff of waste waters directly underground. In Škocjan Caves we recorded from a trickle at Golgota an increased level of nitrate (up to 30 mgl-1) in the water (Kogovšek 1984); we explained it by intensively cultivated fields at the surface. Later we found pollution also in Mariničeva and Mahorčičeva Jama. At the surface, just above these two passages lies the village of Škocjan. The waste waters of this village drain through a 50 to 80 m thick cave roof and appear in the cave.

Obviously the drainage is fast and rather direct with minimal self-purification effects; the percolation water in the cave had strongly increased levels of nitrate (up to 85 mgl-1), sulphate (up to 53 mgl-1), o-phosphate (up to 5,5 mgl-1) and chloride (up to 16 mg l-1), and it was organically polluted (COD up to 8,7 mgO2 l-1 and BOD5 up to 2 mgO2 l-1). These results indicate the range of pollution in karst underground caused by life in a tiny village at the surface, and one may only imagine the consequences in the underground if there are towns with industry at the surface.

In other parts of the Škocjan Caves we did not notice increased levels of parameters showing pollution. Knowledge of pollution transport through carbonate rocks of Kras demands careful protection of the surface and appropraite use of space; the already known sources of pollution in Škocjan Caves must be cleaned.

The Reka sinking stream

Up to 1966 the river Reka was pumped for Divača’s water supply although already at that time the first deterioration of its quality was noticed. The first serious warning appeared in 1966 when pumping stopped. During the years 1969 to 1979 detailed observations of the Reka water quality followed (Mejač et al. 1983), showing organic pollution such that the Reka in the section between Ilirska Bistrica to Nova Sušica displayed anaerobic processes of degradation. In 1982 daily pollution due to industry in Ilirska Bistrica was diminished by one third but it was still too high to provide self-purification processes.

The Reka river sinks into Kras at Škocjan Caves; some time ago it was a “dead” river containing minimal quantities or even no dissolved oxygen, which is indispensable for the existence and development of life in the river. Organic pollution reached such an extent that it used all the available oxygen in the water for its partial degradation.

When the Škocjan Caves were entered onto the UNESCO World Natural Heritage List it was on condition that the river’s quality must improve. Fortunately the factory of organic acids in Ilirska Bistrica was closed in autumn 1990, at which time it became clear how important a polluter this factory was. When its large share of pollution disappeared the Reka riverbed was rapidly rinsed, and in January 1992 a considerable improvement of the Reka quality at its sinking into the Škocjan Caves was recorded. A considerable decrease in degradable organic pollution after 1991 (COD and BOD5) was recorded. However, the ratio between both does not decrease; in some measurements an increase in favour of COD was recorded. This means that the burden of slowly degradable organic pollution is increasing. Nevertheless only detailed systematic observations of long duration can show trends of either worsening or improvement of the Reka quality, as single analyses during different hydrological conditions are not relevant.


Slovenia is on the very northwestern end of the Dinaric area, which is the richest in the world for subterranean fauna (Sket 1999; Culver & Sket 2000). The subterranean fauna contributes relatively few species to global biodiversity (Sket 1999b), but is of high scientific importance (Vandel, 1965), and even of a certain cultural importance for Slovenia (Sket 1996). The concentrated hottest spot for terrestrial, troglobiotic fauna and aquatic, stygobiotic fauna is right in the North-West Dinaric karst in Slovenia with the neighbouring interstitial waters of the alluvial plains.

This richness includes approximately 520 registered ("biological") species of stygobionts and 780 species of troglobionts in the southeastern part of Europe; there are respectively 200 and 160 such species in Slovenia. Crustacea prevail in the waters, as do Coleoptera in terrestrial habitats (Drovenik 1986; Drovenik et al. 1995; Drovenik et Peks 1994, 1999). The region also abounds in Gastropoda, which are very scarce elsewhere. Furthermore, stygobiotic representatives of cnidarians, freshwater sponges, freshwater tubeworms, clams can only be found here (Sket et al. 2003). Particularly famous and historically important is the only European stygobiotic amphibian Proteus with its recently discovered non-troglomorphic cousin.

The main economically caused threats to this fauna are pollution and habitat destruction. In moderately organically polluted sinking streams, surface species can out-compete stygobionts, while inorganic or excessive pollution directly kills any fauna (Sket 1977; Malard 2001). Cave waters, as well as interstitial waters, are permanently affected by the use of fertilizers and pesticides and episodically by spills (Sket 1999b). The main problem is that the whole drainage area of the cave has to be protected (Sket 1992); the area is sometimes unknown or even cryptic – and always difficult to protect. Tourism can also be a threat to a certain degree, since even scientists have sometimes ignored the accompanying biological monitoring (compare Cigna 2002). Commercial collecting of cave beetles and of Proteus can be important threats locally.

The particularly rich Slovenian subterranean biodiversity can be important in promoting the conservation of this special segment of biodiversity in other areas. We are not able to predict whether the economic reforms in Slovenia will enhance the pressure on this segment of biodiversity. The main problem of Slovenian production before recent changes was not a quantitative underdevelopment but rather a wasteful use of all resources (labour/time, energy, and raw material). If we optimistically predict a future prosperity of "organic" farming, and legislation improvements, we can only expect better times also for the conservation of subterranean biodiversity. It is fortunate from the standpoint of subterranean biota that their protection is linked to water quality, and therefore in line with the vital needs of the local human population (Sket 1972).

Research priorities are: (1) further taxonomic and biogeographic investigations of this still poorly known fauna; genetic analysis has been recently uncovering new aspects of its diversity; (2) further synecological investigations in subterranean waters, particularly in sinking streams.


We can distinguish two types of karst lakes In Slovenia. Most of the lowland lakes are intermittent lakes, usually dry for some part of the year. High-mountain lakes on limestone bedrock are another type. There are 14 high-mountain lakes in Slovenia in the area of the Triglav National Park (Brancelj 2002) (Figure 3). They are positioned between 1325 and 2250 m above see level, their surface ranges between 0.2 and 4.5 ha, and their maximum depth span between 2 and 17 metres. All of them are hard-water lakes with pH slightly alkaline (Brancelj 2002). Vegetation around the lakes depends on the altitude and inclination of the slopes. The floor and the gentle slopes of the valley are covered by vegetation (Čarni et al. 2002). The tree species are limited to spruce (Picea abies (L.) Karsten), dwarf mountain pine (Pinus mugo Turra) and larch (Larix decidua Mill). Low bushes form the habitat type group with Rhododendretum hirsuti Ludi 1921. Grass associations are typically represented by syntaxons with Seslerio–Caricetum sempervirentis (Br. – Bl. and Br. – Bl. et Jenny 1926). Areas overgrown with uninterrupted grasslands and lush summer flowers usually belong to Seslerio–Caricetum associations. Interrupted grasslands are often characterised by Gentiano terglouensis–Caricetum firmae T. Wraber 1970 associations, while the screes are overgrown with Festucetum laxae Aichinger 1933 T. Wraber 1970 or Papaveri julici–Thlaspeetum rotundifolii T. Wraber 1970. In some places bare rocks harbouring lichen vegetation are interrupted with fissures, in which plant and animal associations typical of rock fissures can thrive.

The Lopučnica valley, which is closed off in the south by Črno jezero (Black Lake) and a rock face of Komarča, lies to the south-east and south of Zgornja Komna. Except for the valley’s upper part with typical mountain vegetation, some screes, and areas that have remained unforested for the needs of pastoral grazing, the landscape is mainly overgrown with mountain forests. On the sunny slopes beech forest and thermophile hornbeam associations prevail.

Figure 3: High-mountain lakes in Slovenia

Biota in the lakes is relatively rich. In addition to 14 different species of macrophytes about 140 planktonic and 190 benthic taxa of algae were recorded there. The best-studied group of animals there are zooplankton with 9 taxa of Copepoda, 9 taxa of Cladocera and 9 taxa of Rotifera. Benthos is represented with about 100 different taxa (mainly larvae of insects) but it was studied less intensively. At lest one endemic species of Copepoda (Pseudomoraria triglavensis) and one aberrant ecomorphotype of Chydorus sphaericus (Cladocera) were described from the lakes.

From the sediment of the lakes the paleolimnology of some lakes was reconstructed for a period of about 600 years. After the industrial revolution (around 1850) the lakes were exposed to the effects of long-distance pollution. The most intensive was in a period after the Second World War. In 1986 after the Chernobyl accident the whole area of the Julian Alps was intensively affected by fall-out from the exploded reactor. Traces of Cs-137 could be detected at a depth of between 2.5 and 4 cm below the surface of the sediment. This indicates that the sedimentation rate in the lakes is between 0.5 and 1.5 mm per year. The intensity of the sedimentation is dependant on water quality. About half of the lakes are still pristine, and water there is in the oligotrophic category. Lakes close to the huts or trails frequently used by visitors are more eutrophicated, resulting in higher primary production. The consequence is intensive sedimentation of organic material resulting in oxygen depletion in the deeper strata of the lakes for a certain period of the year (Brancelj 2002).

The area of the Triglav Lakes is mainly formed of Triassic and Jurassic carbonate rocks, limestone and dolomites (Ramovš 1974; Buser 1986; Jurkovšek 1986). Jurassic rocks are rather impermeable due to marl inlays; this most probably caused the formation of the Triglav Lakes. Some Pleistocene sediments and Holocene gravels can also be found in the vicinity of the Lakes. In comparison to lowland lakes, the lakes in the mountains are much smaller and never dry out. Their water level can also fluctuate significantly (in some lakes by up to 8 metres). They have no permanent surface inflow, and half of them they have known sinkholes. Weak connections between neighbouring lakes were confirmed during preliminary tracing experiments. Most of the water from each lake disappeared in galleries deep below the lake bowls. Water is collected in a common river, re-appearing in the Savica spring, about 800 m below the lakes. Intensive underground inflow after heavy rain was confirmed in one of the biggest lakes in the area (lake Ledvica - volume 130 000 m3).

In addition to high-mountain lakes there is a glacier, which, although having no direct hydrological connection with any of the lakes, shares some common features with them, especially regarding climate change. In the 1970s, the total area of the glaciers in the Alps amounted to 2842 square kilometres, of which 542 were in Austria, 1342 in Switzerland, 350 in France and 608 in Italy (Rott et al. 1993). In comparison with the foregoing sizes, the Triglav glacier is just a minor one, since in the 1970s it extended only over an area of 12 hectares (Šifrer 1976), and it diminished to as little as 1.375 hectares by the end of the 20th century (Peršolja 2000). Nevertheless, its significance should not be underestimated, because it lies on the southeast edge of the Alps at rather low altitudes above sea level and it is thus particularly sensitive to climatic changes and is therefore an interesting object of scientific studies, which have run there since 1950.

The glacier lies in the Julian Alps on the north side of Mt. Triglav (2864 meters) at an altitude of between 2400 and 2500 m [between Mt. Glava (2426 m) and the 2368 m point above the upper ridge of the Triglavska severna stena (the Triglav north face) or Stena].

The decline of the Triglav glacier over a period of 50 years was first published in Planinski vestnik in 1949 (Pavel Kunaver). Regular annual observations of the Triglav glacier began in 1946. Since then, the associates of the Geographical Institute have performed regular annual measurements and published their observations and results in Geografski Zbornik (Meze 1955; Šifrer 1963, 1976, 1987; Gabrovec 1998).

During the first 14 years of observations the glacier thus shrank by 3 meters on average while during the following 14 years, i.e. between 1960 and 1973, only by 0.8 metres on average. A turning point occurred in 1983, when the size of the glacier reached a minimum, which also means that it was at its smallest since the year 1600. The process of disintegration continued in 1990 when the lower northeastern part of the glacier completely separated from the main body of ice.



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Beltram, Gordana, 2000: Mokrišča: prezirano bogastvo narave.- Proteus, 62, 208-216, Ljubljana.

Brenčič, M., 2001: Kaj imata skupnega reka Nil in Cerkniško jezero?.- Bilten, 22, 76-81, Ljubljana.

Čelik, T. (1994) “Poročilo metuljarske skupine” in Žolgar, I. (ed.) Ekološko-raziskovalni tabor “Cerkniško jezero” '94. - Proceedings. Mladi forum Združene liste, 11-26, Ljubljana.

Cucchi, F., Mihevc, A., Ferrarese, F., Sauro, U., 1997: Guide for the Excursion Classical Karst.- Fourth International Conference on Geomorphology,  167-180, Torino.

Dobravec, J., Seliškar, A., Tome, S. and Vreš, B. (2001) Biotopi Slovenije CORINE, ZRC Publishing, SRC-SASA, 110, Ljubljana.

Faraone, E., 1996: Grotte e fenomeni carsici negli affreschi cinquecenteschi della galleria delle carte geografiche in Vaticano.- Progressione, 35, 62-64, Trieste.

Gaberščik, A., 2001: Cerkniško jezero -najnenavadnejše čudo narave.- Proteus, 64, 162-169, Ljubljana.

Gaberščik, A., 2002: Jezero, ki izginja. Monografija o Cerkniškem jezeru.- Društvo ekologov Slovenije, p. 333, Ljubljana.

Gospodarič, R., 1976: The Qaurternary caves development between the Pivka basin and Polje of Planina (Summary). Acta carsologica, 7, 8-135, Ljubljana.

Gospodarič, R., and Habič, P, 1976, Underground water tracing, Institute for the Karst Research  SAZU, Postojna, 1-309, Postojna.

Gospodarič, R., and Habič, P., 1979: Karst phenomena of Cerkniško polje (Summary), Acta carsologica, 8, 7-162, Ljubljana.

Habe, F., Šilc-Telič, M., 1997: Mlini in žage na vodni pogon na Cerkniškem in Loškem polju ter Blokah nekoč in danes.- 2-103, Ljubljana).

Hamilton-Smith, E., 2000: A workshop (and other things) in Slovenia.- Australiasian Cave & Karst Management Association inc.Journal, 41, 37-38, s.l.

Haterd van de, R., 2000: Heldere wateren - diepe grotten.- Natura, 97, 137-140, Utrecht.

Južnič, S., 2002: Treatises about the subterranean world in Ljubljana between 1678 and 1773.- Acta carsologica, 31/2, 209-221, Ljubljana.

Käss, W., 1998: Tracing Technique in Geohydrology.- Updated translation of Geohydrologische Markierungstechnik, 1992, XV + 1-581, Rotterdam/Brookfield.

Kebe, V., 2001: Presihajoče Cerkniško jezero, čudež kraške narave.- p. 40, Dolenje Jezero.

Kobal, E., 1999: Mehanizem presihajočega Cerkniškega jezera (1689).- Raziskovalec, 29, 78, Ljubljana.

Kobal, E., 1999: Temeljna resnica o Cerkniškem jezeru (1758).- Raziskovalec, 29, 79, Ljubljana.

Kogovšek, J., 1998: Osnovne fizikalno kemične značilnosti kraških voda na Notranjskem.- Acta carsologica, 27/2, 199-220, Ljubljana.

Kogovšek, J., 2001: Visoka voda jeseni 2000.- Naše jame, 43, 68-74, Ljubljana.

Kranjc, A., 1998: Od kod ime kras.- Gea, 8, Priloga 3, 30-37, Ljubljana.

Kranjc, A., 1999: Mission of J.A.Nagel to Carniola in 1748.- Slovensky kras, International Symposium on History of Speleology and Karstology - ALCADI '98, 37, 131-138, Liptovski Mikulaš.

Kranjc, A., 2003: Baltazar Hacquet (1740-1815) in naš kras.- Kras, 56, 16-17, Ljubljana.

Lalkovič, M., 2000: Jaskyne očami slovenskej literatury do roku 1918.- Slovensky kras, 38, 93-126, Liptovsky Mikulaš.

Mihevc, A., 1997: Upper part of the Ljubljanica river basin - 3.SWT test area.- Acta carsologica, Supplementum.Field Guide of Karst in Slovenia, 7th SWT, 26/1, Supplementum, 57-75, Ljubljana.

Morlo, H., 1999: Intermittierende Quellen und ihre historische Deutung.- Stalactite, 49, 15-34.

Nicod, J., 1996: Le poljé de Minde (Portugal Central) type de poljé tectonique.- Revue d'Analyse Spatiale Quantitative et Appliquée, 38-39, 143-151, s.l.

Oprešnik, Simon, 2001: Raziskovanje jame Žerovnice -Veselove jame.- Bilten, 22, 34-37, Ljubljana.

Polak, S./Ed., 2000: Mednarodno pomembna območja za ptice v Sloveniji.- Monografija DOPPS, 1, p. 227.

Schmidt, A., Zadnik, S., 2002: Opuščeni glažuti na notranjskih Javornikih.- Proteus, 65, 31-37, Ljubljana.

Shaw, T.R., 1997: "Many languages are Understood Here..." - Foreign Travellers in Slovene Lands.- U-Verständnis der Kulturen/Mihael John & Oto Luthar/Eds., 31-51, Celovec, Ljubljana, Dunaj.

Shaw, T.R., 2000: Foreign Travellers in the Slovene Karst 1537-1900.- p. 244, Ljubljana.

Smrekar, Aleš A., 2000: Cerkniško polje kot primer poseljenega kraškega ranljivega območja.- Geographica Slovenica, 33, 117-156, Ljubljana.

Svetik, P., 1999: Notranjska -Cerkniško jezero.- Lipov list, 41, 216, Ljubljana.

Šercelj, A., 1974: Paleovegetional invesrigations of the sediments of Cerkniško jezero (Summary). Acta carsologica, 6, 233-241, Ljubljana.

Šušteršič, F., 1998: Interaction between the cave system and the lowering karst surface. Case study: Laški Ravnik.  Acta  carsologica, 27 (2), 115-138, Ljubljana.

Šušteršič, F., 2000: Speleogenesis in the Ljubljanica river drainage basin, Slovenia. In A.B. Klimchouk, D.C.Ford, A.N. Palmer, W. Dreybrodt (Eds.): Spelogenesis, Evolution of Karst Aquifers, National speleological society, 397-406, Huntsville.

Korošec, M., 2000: Cerkniško jezero – kvalitativna analiza vsebin. Fakulteta za družbene vede, Metode in sociološko raziskovanje, Cerknica.

Korošec, M., 2002: Sociološki vidiki varovanja narave: primer presihajočega Cerkniškega jezera nekdaj in danes. Od navdušenja preko posegov do “varovanja”. Diplomska naloga, p. 60.

Šušteršič, F., Čar, J., Šebela, S., 2001: Collector channels and deflector faults (Summary). Naše jame, 43, 8-22, Ljubljana.

Šušteršič, F., (in press): Where does underground ljubljanica flow? Materials and geoenvironment, 41, 1, Ljubljana.

Šušteršič, F., 2002: Ljubljanica - reka sedmerih imen.- Kras, 50, 5-13, Ljubljana.

Šušteršič, F., Šušteršič, S., Stepišnik, U., 2002: Late Pleistocene redirection of the Cerkniščica river:effect on the neighbouring karst.- Carsologica/Evolution of Karst: From Prekarst to Cessation/Gabrovšek, F. Ed.,  283-298, Postojna –Ljubljana.

Šušteršič, F., 1996: Poljes and caves of Notranjska.- Acta carsologica,Predavanja predstavljena na 2. in 3.mednarodni krasoslovni šoli "Klasični Kras",Postojna, 1994 in 1995, 25, 252-289, Ljubljana.

Šušteršič, F., 2000: Are collapse dolines formed only by collapse?.- Acta carsologica, Paper presented at 8th International Karstological School "Classical Karst -Collapse Dolines", Postojna, June 26 -29th, 2000, 29/2, 213-230, Ljubljana.

Šušteršič, S., 2002: Two phase development of the upper Cerkniščica basin.- Acta carsologica, 31/3, 155-164, Ljubljana.

Veen, P., 2000: De Notranjska Regio in Slovenie.- Natura, 97, 115-119, Utrecht.

Veen, P., 2000: Natuur- en cultuurbehoud in Centraal-en Oost-Europa.- Natura, 97, 105-110, Utrecht.

Zupan Hajna, N., 1998: Mineral composition of clastic cave sediments and determination of their origin.- Kras i speleologia, 9 (XVIII), 169-178, Katowice.


5. National Committee for LTER-Slovenija

The members of the National Committee for oversight of the LTER-Slovenija network are chosen one from each of the participating institutions, with the addition of a representative of the Ministry of Education, Science and Sport. Since LTER-Slovenija is the coordinating body for socio-ecological network activities between Slovene and international organisations, the National Committee remains open to new representatives from other Slovene institutions that may choose to join later. It is also open to other state representative that may with to participate in an advisory capacity.

The committee meets twice per year to coordinate research activities and priorities. The members of the committee select the chair.

The current members are:
  • Environmental Agency of the Republic of Slovenia:
    Tanja Cegnar, M.Sc.

  • National Institute of Biology:
    Dr. Anton Brancelj

  • Karst Research Institute of the Scientific Research Centre of the Slovenian Academy of Sciences and Arts (SRC-SASA)
    Dr. Tanja Pipan

  • Jovan Hadži Institute of Biology, SRC-SASA
    Dr. Branko Vreš

  • Spatial Information Centre, SRC-SASA
    Dr. Tomaž Podobnikar

  • Anton Melik Geographical Institute, SRC-SASA
    Dr. Matej Gabrovec

  • Scientific Research Centre of the Slovenian Academy of Sciences and Arts
    Dr. Jeffrey Turk  (coordinating activities)


6. Data Management

We have agreed to follow the standard data management policies for the (I)LTER network. We have designated Dr. Tanja Pipan from the Karst Research Insitute to manage data collection and access for the LTER site.



1) There are two types of data: Type I (data that is freely available within 2-3 years) with minimum restrictions and, Type II (Exceptional data sets that are available only with written permission from the PI/investigator(s)). Implied in this timetable, is the assumption that some data sets require more effort to get on-line and that no "blanket policy" is going to cover all data sets at all sites. However, each site would pursue getting all of their data on-line in the most expedient fashion possible.

2) The number of data sets that are assigned TYPE II status should be rare in occurrence and that the justification for exceptions must be well documented and approved by the lead PI and site data manager. Some examples of Type II data may include: locations of rare or endangered species, data that are covered by copyright laws (e.g. TM and/or SPOT satellite data) or some types of census data involving human subjects.


7. Description of relevant past and current research from each of the participating institutions.

The Environmental Agency of the Republic of Slovenia

  • Protection of the environment and all its essential elements
  • Development and preparation of professional bases for effective decision-making
  • Elaboration of measures for assessing the sustainable development of Slovenia
  • Positively changing citizens' attitudes toward the environment
  • Monitoring economic standards of activities affecting the environment


The Environmental Agency of the Republic of Slovenia unites the entire environmental protection professional potential necessary in the search for deeper, scientific and coordinated solutions demanded by an interdependent and technologically oriented global society.

In its mission and planned program the Environmental Agency of the Republic of Slovenia is modeled on the European Environmental Agency, which functions as a consortium of many countries on the professional level, and covers five essential components: air and climatic change, water, natural and biotic diversity, earth environment, and waste and emissions. Because environmental information is also important for appropriate drafting of environmental policies and for monitoring their implementation, we have joined the European network for the transfer of information about the environment and have established a complementary system on the national level that will enable our integration in the national and international community and facilitate the processing of information and its analysis, synthesis and comparison. The work of the Environmental Agency of the Republic of Slovenia is public and transparent. Its success and reputation will depend on effective communication with the media, government bodies, local communities, and non-governmental organizations. Our work is therefore oriented toward improving communication with the public and providing the basic infrastructure for enabling rapid and simple access to public information, and for bringing the institutions of environmental protection closer to the citizens whose environment and health are protected by the Environmental Agency.

Offices of the Environmental Agency of the Republic of Slovenia and their tasks:

Environment Office
  • Direction of administrative operations related to: the protection of water, air and soil; the assessment of impacts on the environment and nature; the protection from noise and other threats to the environment; the protection of nature; waste and water management
  • Granting of concessions and issuance of licenses
  • Preparation of reports on the condition of the environment and maintaining databases, registers and cadastres
  • Administration of taxes and recovery of debts in the field of water use
  • Preparation of the technical bases for draft legislation
  • Preparation of analyses and reports on the elimination of the consequences of natural disasters
  • Monitoring of the proper use of funds granted as state aid
  • Supervision of the implementation of European Union legislation
  • Performance of tasks related to international commitments
  • Protection of natural resources
Monitoring Office
  • Monitoring the state of the environment through the systematic measuring of air and water pollution and systematic measuring of hydrological, radiological and meteorological parameters
  • Verification of measurements, maintenance of databases and preparation of reports
  • Ensuring of the quality of measurements and observations
  • Performance of professional analyses and data processing
  • Notification of the public about excessive pollution
  • Performance of the tasks of the national hydrological center
  • Planning of the development of measurement networks
  • Installation, regular maintenance and calibration of measuring equipment
  • Administration of a communications network for the needs of monitoring
Meteorological Office

  • Monitoring, forecasting and drawing attention to climate and weather conditions that could threaten human life
  • Perform tasks related to meteorological vigilance, monitoring, observing and forecasting weather processes
  • Systematic monitoring of the state of the climate in Slovenia and its changes as well as monitoring changes in global climate conditions
  • Processing of climate data for various purposes
  • Planning and maintenance of the meteorological measuring network
  • Monitoring of the influence of the climate and weather on vegetation and people
  • Exchange of information with international meteorological systems
Seismology Office
  • Monitoring and evaluation of earthquake activity on the territory of Slovenia and elsewhere
  • Reporting of significant events
  • Planning and installation of permanent earthquake observatories in Slovenia
  • Installation of temporary earthquake observatories during periods of increase earthquake activity
  • Macro-seismic research and publication of earthquake catalogues
  • Coordination of geological and geophysical research related to earthquake activity
  • Production of maps of earthquake threats
  • Production of evaluations of the seismic features of individual locations
  • Tasks in the field of earthquake engineering and engineering seismology
  • Creation of technical bases for regulations and standards for earthquake-resistant construction
  • International exchange of data with world seismological centers


Karstology has become a complex multidisciplinary science, covering a wide range of earth sciences related to karst. Our long traditions of excellent research and unique position in the centre of classical karst have established the Institute as one of the most recognised karstological centres in the world.

In 1997 the Karst Research Institute celebrated its 50th anniversary of work within the Slovene Academy of Sciences and Arts. Karst is the focus of our research. We study its hydrology, geology, morphology, ecology, microbiology and speleology as well as the history of our own science. Researchers at the Institute have various backgrounds including geology, geography, physics, chemistry, biology and microbiology, thus enabling multidisciplinary approaches. Our research includes field studies, laboratory investigations and numerical modelling. We conduct basic studies and applied studies.

At present the Institute employs 4 geographers, 5 geologists, two biologists, one chemist, and one physicist. Basic knowledge is being widened regarding the most important karstological fields: from karst geomorphology, speleology, and hydrogeology to ecology. Characteristics of the recharge, underground flow and storage, and discharge of the karst aquifers are studied. Underground waters, either water flows or percolation water, are water-traced and their quality assessed. We study the geomorphologic properties of contact karst. We define the factors that control the karst caverns in different conditions by characteristic processes. We establish the origin of minerals in mechanical cave sediments. We determine the dependence of origin and the development of karst features upon the geological structure. We assess the origin of karstification on the basis of lithology. We have started to study the paleokarstic features of the Adriatic Dinaric carbonate platform. Regular studies are undertaken on the protection and safeguarding of Škocjan Caves, a natural monument listed in the UNESCO World Natural Heritage. Knowledge about the history of karstology and speleology is also deepened.

The staff of the Institute are successfully involved in the planning and implementation of projects for sensible intervention into this landscape and for its safeguarding. Our interest is concentrated on the study of karst aquifers and water sources and on the construction of motorways over karst; we are studying newly some discovered caves that bring the oldest traces of underground water drainage through karst aquifers, and we are calling public attention to the fact that the underground waters must be protected. We co-operate in the design of waste disposal sites and at the opening of new quarries. We study the effects of accidental spills of harmful substances into the permeable karst surface. The Institute hosts a karstological library, one of the most complete of its kind, a laboratory specialised in water chemistry, a geological laboratory and a lecture room with modern multi-media equipment.

Our collections of the Cave Register (over 8000 caves registered), karstological library and cartographical collection grow every year. Our annual publication is Acta carsologica, a scientific review opened to all karstologists. Every year since 1993 the International Karstological School “Classical karst” has been organised by our Institute. Researchers of the Institute are enrolled as lecturers at the postgraduate study of karstology, which has recently started at the newly founded School of Karstology at the Nova Gorica Polytechnic.

Programme of karst research

Conducting basic research on the main topics of karstology is key for understanding the nature of karst and its processes. The goal of the team at the Karst Research Institute of the Scientific Research Centre of the Slovenian Academy of Sciences and Arts is to understand the complex phenomena of karst: the evolution of its surface and subsurface, the evolution and function of karst aquifers and karst ecosystems, the origins of karst terminology and the history of karst science. Our research provides knowledge for the effective protection of the vulnerable karst environment and the planning of human activities on karst areas. Together with the Speleological Association of Slovenia the Karst Research Institute maintains the Slovene cave cadastre. The Karstological Library is available in the Slovene bibliographical system COBISS.

The main topics of our research and activities:

  • Karst geology, structural geology and geological mapping
  • Karst geomorphology and speleology
  • Evolution and formation of karst surfaces, caves and cave rock forms
  • Sedimentology, clastic sediments in karst, paleokarst
  • Karst geography, history of speleology and karstology
  • Karst hydrology
  • Chemistry of karst waters, water tracing
  • Numerical modelling of karst processes
  • Vulnerability of groundwater in karst
  • Microbiology
  • Biodiversity and ecology of fauna in surface water and groundwater in karst

Environmental scientists at the Karst Research Institute are use multidisciplinary approaches to achieve a better understanding of our role in utilizing and protecting the natural resources unique to karst terrains.

Academic, governmental and private sector specialists have joined together in solving existing environmental problems and assisting in planning for the utilization of land and water resources in karst areas in the future. Resources and expertise at the Karst Research Institute can be brought to bear on significant applied and theoretical problems of karst areas.

Anton Melik Geographical Institute, SRC SASA

The Anton Melik Geographical Institute was founded in 1948 by the Slovenian Academy of Sciences and Arts. In 1976 it was named after the most highly esteemed Slovenian geographer, academician Anton Melik (1890–1966). Since 1981, the Institute has been one of the constituent parts of the Scientific Research Centre of the Slovenian Academy of Sciences and Arts. Until 1992 the Institute was mainly engaged with researching glaciers, glacial and fluvial transformation of the land surface, flooded areas, natural disasters and mountain farms in Slovenia. But since 1993 the Institute's main task has been to conduct geographical research on Slovenia and its landscapes and to prepare basic geographical texts on Slovenia as a country and as a part of the World. Research is mostly directed towards physical, social and regional geography and thematic cartography. In the 1990s the research team published over 600 bibliographic units and gave over 200 presentations in conferences at home and abroad. In 2002 the Institute of Geography (founded in 1962) and Geographical museum (founded in 1946) have been incorporated into the Anton Melik Geographical Institute.

Today it comprises six organization units: the Departments of Physical Geography; Social Geography; Regional Geography; Natural Disasters; Geographical Information System and the Department of Thematic Cartography. The Institute also houses a geographical museum, geographical library and four specialized collections: Cartographical Collection, Landscapes of Slovenia, Settlements of Slovenia and Glaciers of Slovenia. The Institute is also headquarters of the Commission for the Standardization of Geographical Names of the Government of the Republic of Slovenia.

The Institute publishes three scientific publications: Geografija Slovenije (Geography of Slovenia) is a series of books that appears in Slovene once or twice a year. Geografski zbornik (Acta geographica) is a review published annually in English and Slovene. Articles can be downloaded in either Slovene or English from the institute homepage ( Geographica Slovenica is another review published once or twice a year in Slovene.

Researchers at the Anton Melik Geographical Institute have been involved in research work on changes in land use and resulting ecological consequences. Land use reflects a complicated correlation between natural, historical and socio-economic factors. It changes constantly, a fact seen in the changing of the surface areas of land categories or their relative ratios. Monitoring and recording these changes is a demanding and expensive task, and a universally useful methodology has therefore not yet been formulated. In spite of the most modern of technologies, such as satellites and computers, the determination of actual land use is still closely tied to fieldwork. In nature it is sometimes difficult to draw a distinction between individual land categories, since in the process of change they fall between typical individual forms.

The study of land use is covered relatively well in geography. The more important Slovene researchers of land use include Ilešič (1935), Leban (1947), Ingolič (1966), Medved (1970), Kladnik (1985) and Vrišer (1987), while more recent authors have sought and confirmed links between land use and natural factors (K. Natek 1984; Bat 1990; Gabrovec 1995a, 1995b); or between land use and the complex of natural and social factors (Perko 1989; Kladnik, M. Natek and Bat 1988). With the widening use of computer technology and improvements to its accessibility for use with personal computers, ever more diverse applications have appeared that take advantage of the geographical information system, particularly the digital relief model.

One of the basic sources for studies on land use change is the data from the land cadastre maintained by the Surveying and Mapping Authority of the Republic of Slovenia. The data is compiled on the basis of cadastral records showing the current situation in all the cadastral municipalities; however the data is not up-to-date due to failures to record changes promptly, and indeed lags permanently behind the actual situation. To follow ongoing changes in land use, data is available from the Statistical Administration of Slovenia, which attempts to monitor annual changes in land use on the basis of evaluations.

The cadastral municipality is typically selected as the basic unit, which in comparison with other spatial units is a relatively stable territorial unit, on the level of which the land category structure has been regularly recorded for almost two centuries, since the introduction of the Emperor Francis' cadastre. There are just fewer than 2700 cadastral municipalities in Slovenia, enough for the essential characteristics of land use in Slovenia to be reflected in the relations between land categories.


Bat, M. (1990) ‘A new image of cultural landscape as a result of change in land use’, Geographica Iugoslavica XII, pp. 221-7, Ljubljana.

Gabrovec, M. (1995a) ‘Dolomite areas with particular consideration of relief and land use’, Geografski zbornik XXXV, pp. 7-44, Ljubljana.

–  (1995b) ‘Land use in dolomite regions in Slovenia’, Acta Carsologica 24, pp. 221-8, Ljubljana.

Ilešič, S. (1935) ‘Obradjena zemlja u Sloveniji’, Glasnik geografskog društva XXI, Belgrade.

Ingolič, B. (1966) ‘Razporeditev kmetijskih površin in njihova izraba v Sloveniji’, Report, Institute of Geography, Ljubljana.

Kladnik, D. (1985) ‘Značilnosti zemljiške structure v SR Sloveniji’, Geographica Iugoslavica VI, pp. 223-7, Maribor.

Kladnik, D., Natek, M. and Bat, M. (1988) ‘Vrednotenje naravnega potenciala z vidika kmetijskega pridelovanja’, Report, Edvard Kardelj University, Institute of Geography, ljubljana.

Leban, V. (1947) ‘Kmetijska zemlja v Sloveniji’, Geografski vestnik XIX, pp. 139-149, Ljubljana.

Medved, J. (1970) ‘Spremembe v izrabi zemljišča in preslojevanje kmečkega prebivalstva v Sloveniji v zadnjih dveh desetletjih’, Geografski vestnik XLII, pp. 3-30, Ljubljana.

Natek, K. (1984) ‘Razvoj reliefa in izraba tal v Ložniškem gričevju’, Geografski zbornik XXIII, pp. 57-97, Ljubljana.

Perko, D. (1989) ‘Vzhodna Krška kotlina – pokrajinska sestava in prebivalstvo’, Geografski zbornik 29, pp. 79-147, Ljubljana.

Vrišer, I. (1987) ‘Spremembe v zemljiških kategorijah v Sloveniji’, Geografski vestnik LIX, pp. 37-49, Ljubljana.

Spatial Information Centre, SRC SASA

Past research relevant to LTER:

The Centre for Spatial Studies conducts research in two rather distinct areas: First is the use and development of geographical information systems (GIS) and satellite imagery in various natural sciences and humanities. We have made several test studies on the use of GIS and satellite images in different sciences, from archaeology to biology to linguistics.

Our second research area is anthropology, with special interests in Papua New Guinea, Mesoamerica and Slovenia.

Relevant research:

a) Research on the islands of the Central Dalmatia, Croatia (main publication: Z. Stančič et al., 1999, The Adriatic Islands Project, vol. 2: “The archaeological heritage of the island of Brač, Croatia”, BAR International Series 803, Oxford):

  • Developing of the quantitative methods for the archaeological data processing (handling), using:

  • Geographical information systems (GIS) for spatial analyses, spatial statistics, digital elevation model modelling 

  • Remote sensing methods for vegetation data producing

b) Archaeological recognising on the peninsula Yucatán, Mexico (main publication: I. Šprajc, Orientaciones astronómicas en la arquitectura prehispánica del centro de México, 2001)

  • Analysing satellite images for identify Maya archaeological sites (support for field work)

  • Registering of more than 40 new archaeological sites

  • Producing geodetical data and then map with digital elevation model 

References on remote sensing and GIS:

Oštir, K., Veljanovski, T., Podobnikar, T. and Stančič, Z. (2003) “Application of remote satellite sensing in natural hazard management: the Mount Mangart landslide case study”, accepted for publication to the Special Issue of the of International Journal of Remote Sensing “Geospatial Knowledge Processing for Natural Resource Management”, edited E. Binaghi, P.A. Brivio, G.A. Lanzarone and G. Tosi.

Podobnikar, T. (2001) Digital Terrain Model from Various Data Sources of Different Quality. Ph.D. Thesis, University of Ljubljana (Digitalni model reliefa iz geodetskih podatkov različne kakovosti. Doktorska disertacija, Univerza v Ljubljani).

Oštir, K., Veljanovski, T. and Stančič, Z. “Log pod Mangartom Landslide”, Slovenia Charter "Space and Major Disasters", Final Report.

Oštir, K. (2000) Analysis of the Influence of Radar Interferogram Combination on Digital Elevation and Movement Models Accuracy, PhD Thesis, University of Ljubljana (PhD thesis in radar interferometry, specializing in interferogram combination, DEM production and change detection).

Podobnikar, T., Stančič, Z. and Oštir, K. (2000) “Data integration for the DTM production”, in Kosmatin Fras, M. (ed.), Mussio, L. (ed.), Crossilla, F. (ed.). International Cooperation and Technology Transfer: Proceedings of the Workshop, Ljubljana, Slovenia - February 2-5, (International archives of photogrametry and remote sensing, Vol. 32, Part 6W8/1). Institute of Geodesy, Cartography and Photogrammetry: Ljubljana, pp. 134-139 (Paper about the most efficient way to produce digital terrain models).

Stančič, Z., and Kvamme, K. (1999) “Settlement patterns modelling through Boolean overlays of social and environmental variables”, in New Technique For Old Times edited by Barceló, J.A., Briz, I. and Vila, A. - Oxford : Archaeopress (Paper about predictive modelling in archaeology).

Gaffney, V. and Stančič, Z., (1991) “GIS application to regional analysis: the case study of the island of Hvar”, Znanstveni institut Filozofske fakultete, Ljubljana, (reprinted in 1996; The classical GIS and archaeology book).

Jovan Hadži Institute of Biology, SRC SASA

The Institute of Biology, named after its first director Academician Jovan Hadži, has since its founding in 1950 conducted research geared toward gaining better understanding of the flora, vegetation and individual groups of fauna on the territory of Slovenia and in some of the neighbouring regions. Throughout this time the institute has employed 54 researchers, while many external colleagues from other organizations in biology have periodically participated in carrying out some of the research work. There has also been intense cooperation with foreign partners (institutions of biology or individual researchers) in various fields. The results of more than fifty years of activity are the newly described plant and animal taxa, new plant and animal communities, more than a million collected information sources on the flora and fauna of Slovenia, including information of the locations and habitats, a vegetation map of Slovenia, collections of beetles, lepidoptera, molluscs, a herbarium of algae, mosses, ferns and vascular plants, and a pollen collection. Many results have been published in academic reviews in Slovenia and abroad, while completed works have been published as monographs.

Results of the long-term basic research program Flora, Fauna and Vegetation of Slovenia and Neighbouring Regions are of exceptional importance for understanding the biodiversity of Slovenia. Several tens of taxa new to science have been documented, mostly from the beetles, molluscs, lepidoptera, earthworms, water bears, millipedes and flowering plants. Among the several hundred vegetational associations known to us, a significant share were first described on the basis of the registers and tables of the fellows of the Institute. In the process a great quantity of floristic, faunistic and vegetational information was collected on the basis of standard methods, both in the form of registers and as collected materials. If this information is combined with the vegetation maps (re-mapping is currently underway for some regions of Slovenia), a solid basis is available for the determination of changes in the biodiversity and for the monitoring of development in the future, while the results of palaeovegetation research enable a look into the historical development of vegetation in past periods. Research supported by ecological analyses, which at least partially enable the understanding and clarification of the mechanisms of the living environment of organisms and their communities, is among possibilities.

Other results of our fifty years of effort are various biological collections with numerous typological samples that are organised and compiled by Institute, as well as an extensive database of biological data.

The following areas are included in the research program:
  • Botany: Taxonomic and horological research of some families of Caryophyllaceae, Polygonaceae, Cyperaceae, Potamogetonaceae and flora (especially the extent of marsh flora in Slovenia).
  • Vegetation: Research on forest, shrub, grassland marsh, weed, aquatic, riparian and rocky vegetation, subalpine and alpine vegetation and vegetation at forest edges and clearings.
  • Zoology: Taxonomic, ecological and faunistic research on beetles, lepidoptera, molluscs and spiders.
  • Palynology and palaeobotany: Palynological research of Holocene and Pleistocene sediments, and anthracotomic and carpological research on plant macrofossils from archaeological sites.

Large quantities of data without appropriate means of storage and digital processing quickly get out of hand. We therefore try to incorporate them into the geographical information system and use various standard tools for digital processing (TURBOVEG, TILIA, etc.), and we have developed our own application FloVegSI for the input and processing of floristic, faunistic and vegetational data and for managing and organising biological collections.

Past and current research on karst:

Project: Flora, Vegetation and Fauna of the Kras Regional Park

In 1995 we carried out floristic, vegetational and faunistic research on the wider karst region, from Podgorski kras in the south to Komenski kras in the north. The purpose was to inventory the biodiversity of the region according to an agreement with the Insitute for the Protection of the Natural and Cultural Heritage of Nova Gorica. The collected materials are intended to form the technical grounding for the proposed opening of the Kras Regional Park, clearly one of the biologically most diverse and lately one of the more endangered parts of Slovenia.

Project: Research on the Flora, Fauna and Vegetation of the Škocjan Caves Regional Park

The unique example of plant and animal life joined in exceptional harmony on in very small area means that the area of the Škocjan Caves is very diverse biologically. The area of the park belongs to the sub-Mediterranean phytogeographical area, while even the ice age remains of alpine flora can be found at the bottom of land sinks. Through our research we wish to fill in gaps in our current understanding of the biodiversity of the park region, and augment our knowledge on new plant and animal species in the area. Research has been in progress since 2001, and due to complexity has been divided into thematic areas: floristic, faunistic (molluscs, beetles, lepidoptera and birds); zoogeographical and zoocoenological; and vegetational research.

Project:  SPIN

The project Spatial Indicators for European Nature Conservation (SPIN) is geared to the development and testing of an intelligent system of spatial indicators to be based on multi-sensory data from satellites, and the development of GIS for carrying out monitoring and managerial tasks for the purposes of the NATURE 2000 network. The project will enable improvements in procedures for monitoring in the areas of accuracy, spatial resolution and the timely acquisition and analysis of data. The project has run in the area of the inner karst since 2002. The Slovene partners on the project are the Jovan Hadži Institute of Biology, SRC SASA, the Centre for Soil and Environmental Sciences, Biotechnical Faculty, Ljubljana, and the Slovenian Forestry Institute.


Since 2002 we have been researching the flora of higher plants, fauna of molluscs, lepidoptera and beetles, and the vegetation of karst ponds as part of the AQUADAPT project. With our inventory of the biodiversity of ponds we also document their current state of use: the level of abandonment, overgrowth, drying out, etc. The springtime plant communities in the trampled habitats around the ponds are also research subjects.

Planned research on the karst:

  1. Monitoring of the biodiversity of the karst ponds.

  2. Monitoring of the dynamics of biodiversity (vegetation and palaeovegetation, flora, fauna: individual groups) on selected localities on the karst. 


ACCETTO, M., CULIBERG, M., ČARNI, A., ČELIK, T. DAKSKOBLER, I., DROVENIK, B., GJERKEŠ, M., KRYŠTUFEK, B., LIPEJ, L., MRŠIĆ, N., SELIŠKAR, A., SLAPNIK, R., TOME, S., TRPIN, D., VREŠ, B., ZUPANČIČ, M., ŽAGAR, V. (1996) Flora, vegetacija in favna Kraškega regijskega parka: elaborat,  projekt leader Branko Vreš. Ljubljana: Jovan Hadži Institute of Biology, SRC-SASA: 200 pp.

BOLE, Jože, SLAPNIK, Rajko. (1998) “Die Landschnecken des submediterranean Gebietes Sloweniens (Gastropoda: Pulmonata)” Malakol. Abh., Vol. 19, No. 12, pp. 119-126, illustr.

BOLE, Jože, SLAPNIK, Rajko (1997) Zoogeographische Analyse der Landschnecken des alpinen Gebietes Sloweniens (Gastropoda: Pulmonata). Malakol. Abh., Vol. 18, No. 26, pp. 271-276.

CULIBERG, Meta (1995) Dezertifikacija in reforestacija slovenskega Krasa. Desertification and reforestation of the Karst in Slovenia. Poročilo o raziskovanju paleolitika, neolitika in eneolitika v Sloveniji 22: 201-217. 

CULIBERG, Meta (1997) The Kras Vegetation in the Past. - In: Kras: Slovene Classical Karst, 107-110. Ed.: Andrej Kranjc. Ljubljana, Znanstvenoraziskovalni center SAZU.

ČARNI, Andraž, ČELIK, Tatjana, ČUŠIN, Boško, DAKSKOBLER, Igor, DROVENIK, Božidar, PIRNAT, Aljoša, SELIŠKAR, Andrej, SLAPNIK, Rajko, SURINA, Boštjan, VREŠ, Branko (2002) Flora, favna in vegetacija regijskega parka Škocjanske jame : elaborat: collected and edited: Rajko Slapnik, Ljubljana: Jovan Hadži Institute of Biology, SRC-SASA.

ČARNI, Andraž, KALIGARIČ, Mitja. (1990) “Comparision of Dynamics of Reforestation in Karstmeadows (Carici-Centaureetum rupestris Ht. 31) at two altitudes”, in Illyrische Einstrahlungen im ostalpin-dinarischen Raum : Symposium in Keszthely, 25-29. June 1990. Keszthely: [S.n.], pp. 15-19.

ČARNI, Andraž, MARINČEK, Lojze, SELIŠKAR, Andrej, ZUPANČIČ, Mitja (2002) Vegetacijska karta gozdnih združb Slovenije : merilo 1:400 000. Ljubljana: SRC-SASA (Jovan Hadži Institute of Biology, SRC-SASA), 1 map, colour.

ČELIK, Tatjana (1994) Dnevni metulji (Lep.: Papilionoidea in Hesperioidea) kot bioindikatorska skupina za ekološko ocenjevanje in naravovarstveno vrednotenje Planinskega polja : diplomska naloga = Butterflies (Lep.: Papilionoidea in Hesperioidea) as bioindicator group for assessment of natural conservation value of Planinsko polje, graduation thesis, Ljubljana: [T. Čelik], VIII, 73 pp.

ČELIK, Tatjana (1994) “Najjužnejša najdišča vrste Maculinea teleius Bergstr. v Sloveniji (Lepidoptera: Lycaenidae) = The southernmost localities of the species Maculinea teleius Bergstr. in Slovenia (Lepidoptera: Lycaenidae)”, Acta entomol. slov. (Ljubljana), Vol. 2, pp. 19-24, illustr.

ČELIK, Tatjana (2002) “Zoogeografska, ekološka in naravovarstvena analiza favne dnevnih metuljev regijskega parka Škocijanske jame. - 29. srečanje entomologov sosednjih dežel [in] srednjeevropsko entomološko srečanje v počastitev 50-letnice Slovenskega entomološkega društva”, Ljubljana, 26-27 October, Slovensko entomološko društvo, Ljubljana. 

DAKSKOBLER, I. (1997) Geografske variante asociacije Seslerio autumnalis-Fagetum (Ht.) M.Wraber ex Borhidi 1963. Razprave 4. raz. SAZU (Ljubljana) 38 (8): 165-255.

DOBRAVEC, Jurij, SELIŠKAR, Andrej, TOME, Staša, VREŠ, Branko (2001) Biotopi Slovenije CORINE. Ljubljana: ZRC Publishing, SRC-SASA, 110 pp.

DROVENIK, Božidar, MLEJNEK, Roman, MORAVEC, Josef (1995) “Zwei neue Höhlenkäfer aus Slowenien : (Coleoptera: Leiodidae: Leptodirini)”, Coleoptera (Schwanf.), No. 11, pp. 1-9, illustr.

DROVENIK, Božidar (1999) “Nove vrste jamskih hroščev v Sloveniji”, Naše jame, 41, pp. 105-110.

DROVENIK, Božidar (1986) “O najnovejših raziskavah jamskih hroščev v Sloveniji”, Naše jame, Vol. 28, pp. 42-43.

DROVENIK, Božidar (1978) “Prispevek k poznavanju hroščev (Coleoptera) Cerkniškega jezera in okolice = Beitrag zur Kenntnis der Koleopterenfauna des Cerkniško jezero (See von Cerknica) und Umgebung”, Acta carsol, Vol. 8, pp. 237-256.

KALIGARIČ, Mitja, SELIŠKAR, Andrej (1999) “Flora in vegetacija Krasa”, in: LIKAR, V. and ŽALIK HUZJAN, M. (ed.), CULIBERG, M. and KRANJC, A. Kras : pokrajina, življenje, ljudje, Ljubljana: ZRC Publishing, SRC-SASA, pp. 102-114, illustr.

SLAPNIK, Rajko (2002) “The Molluscs of Regional Park Škocjanske jame, Slovenia”, in ROLÁN, E. (ed.). Libro de resúmenes. Vigo, pp. 51-52.

ŽAGAR, Vinko (ed.) (1994) Clusius-Exkursion nach Karst-Gebiet Sloweniens, Postojna, 20-23 May Ljubljana: Jovan Hadži Institute of Biology, SRC-SASA, pp. 5-6.

National institute of biology (NIB)

The National Institute of Biology (NIB) is a public non-profit organization performing basic and applied research in the fields of biology, biotechnical sciences and biotechnology, medicine and ecology. Financing of basic research is provided by the Ministry of Education, Science and Sports, mainly through research programmes and projects. The Institute also educates young scientists working on their MSc and/or PhD degrees in a programme of the Government of Republic of Slovenia. Some fellows of the Institute also teach in undergraduate and postgraduate educational courses. Other Ministries, governmental organizations, agencies and private firms partly or wholly finance the applied and developmental research carried out at the Institute.

The NIB was founded in 1961as a University Institute closely related to the Department of Biology at the Biotechnical University of Ljubljana. In 1991 its status was changed to the National Institute of Biology, which was directly linked to the Ministry of Education, Science and Sport. At the moment NIB has about 75 employees, of whom 25 hold PhD degrees.

The NIB has six units:

  • Department of genetic toxicology and cancer biology
  • Department of invertebrate physiology
  • Marine biology station
  • Department of plant physiology and biotechnology
  • Library
  • Department of freshwater and terrestrial ecosystems research

Members from the Dept. of freshwater and terrestrial ecosystems research have long-term experience in ecological research of high-mountain lakes. The lakes in the Eastern Part of the Julian Alps are of glacial origin and are positioned on limestone geology. Before 1990 there was very little information on the high-mountain lakes in Slovenia. The only comprehensive work on the lakes was a physical description of the lakes (Gams, 1962). Since 1990 an intensive research programme by the researchers from the NIB has been in progress there. The programme has included research on contemporary hydrogeology, water chemistry, physical properties of the water column and biology (phytoplankton, zooplankton and benthos). Part of this meteorological data has been collected since 1996. Parallel with contemporary ecological research, an intensive study of the sediment from several lakes was performed to collect information on the lakes' history (paleolimnology). The time-span covered by this method in one particular lake varied from 50 to about 600 years in the past. We collected information on the effects of environmental change as well as human impact on the lakes, including long-distance pollution. As a result of intensive and multidisciplinary research a monograph on high-mountain lakes in Slovenia was published (Brancelj, 2002). 

Part of the research activities at the Department of Freshwater and Terrestrial Ecosystems Research have been done in the subterranean (karstic) environment, where the main research was performed on faunal research of Copepoda and Cladocera. Several new species of Copepoda were described from different caves  (see Brancelj, 2001 for list of references).  Cladocera are very rare in the caves. There are only four species known from this type of environment, and three of them were discovered and described by a member of the NIB (Brancelj, 1997). Ecological research has been performed in several caves where environmental conditions and the biodiversity of Copepoda were the main topics. It appeared that biodiversity of Copepoda in one specific environment (epikarst) could be very high, and several new species could be found there (Brancelj, 2002). 

BRANCELJ, A. (1997)  “Alona stochi n.sp. - the third cave-dwelling cladoceran (Crustacea: Cladocera) from the Dinaric region”, Hydrobiologia, 360:  47-54. 

BRANCELJ, A. (2001) “Male of Moraria radovnae” Brancelj, 1988 (Copepoda: Crustacea), and notes on endemic and rare copepod species from Slovenia and neighbouring countries. Hydrobiologia (Den Haag), 453/454: 513-524.

BRANCELJ, A. (2002) “Microdistribution and high diversity of Copepoda (Crustacea) in a small cave in central Slovenia”, Hydrobiologia (Den Haag), 477: 59-72.

Brancelj, A., (ed.), (2002) High-mountain lakes in the Eastern part of the Julian Alps, National Institute of Biology & ZRC Publishing, Ljubljana: 266 pp. 

GAMS, I. (1962) “Visokogorska jezera v Sloveniji”, Geografski zbornik, 7: 195-262.