Shallow Subterranean Habitats: Ecology, Evolution, and Conservation

This course is part of the programme
Master’s study programme Environment (second cycle)

Objectives and competences

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


Knowledge of basic consepts in biology and ecology is desired.


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

Intended learning outcomes

h2. Knowledge and understanding:
Students get theoretical and practical knowledge about terrestrial (epikarst, talus slopes, MSS, lava tubes) and aquatic shallow subterranean habitats (hypotelminorheic, epikarst, calcrete aquifers, hyporheic), their physicochemical and biological characteristics, based on the measurements of specific cases, dependence of subterranean habitats from surface, ecology, biology and evolution of SSHs, and specific fauna. Students get familiar with new approaches in direction of biological and ecological research in shallow subterranean habitats, new methodology of sampling, standardization of results and databases.



  • Culver D. C., Pipan T. 2014: Shallow Subterranean Habitats. Ecology, Evolution, and Conservation. Oxford University Press, Oxford. Catalogue


  • Culver D. C., Pipan T. 2009: The Biology of Caves and Other Subterranean Habitats. Oxford University Press, Oxford. Catalogue
  • Pipan T. 2005: Epikarst – a promising habitat. Copepod fauna, its diversity and ecology: a case study from Slovenia (Europe). Založba ZRC, Ljubljana. Catalogue E-version
  • White W. B., Culver D. C. 2012: Encyclopedia of Caves. Elsevier, Amsterdam. E-version Catalogue
  • Wilkens H., Culver D. C., Humphreys W. 2000: Ecosystems of the World. Subterranean Ecosystems. Elsevier, Amsterdam. Catalogue
  • Selected articles from scientific journals.


• Short written seminar and its presentation (50%) • Examination (50%)

Lecturer's references

Associate Professor of Biology at University of Nova Gorica.

  • CULVER, D. C., PIPAN, T. Shallow subterranean habitats : ecology, evolution, and conservation. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2014. 258 str., ilustr. ISBN 978‐0‐19‐964617‐3. [COBISS.SI‐ID 36933421]
  • CULVER, D. C., PIPAN, T. Subterranean ecosystems. V: LEVIN, Simon Asher (ur.). Encyclopedia of biodiversity. 2nd ed. San Diego [etc.]: Academic Press, 2013, vol. 7, str. 49‐62, ilustr. [COBISS.SI‐ID 35307053]
  • CULVER, D. C., PIPAN, T. The biology of caves and other subterranean habitats, (Biology of habitats). New York: Oxford University Press, 2009. XVI, 254 str., ilustr. ISBN 978‐0‐19‐921992‐6. ISBN 978‐0‐19‐921993‐3. [COBISS.SI‐ID 29605933]
  • PIPAN, T., CULVER, D. C. Regional species richness in an obligate subterranean dwelling fauna ‐ epikarst copepods. Journal of biogeography, ISSN 0305‐0270, 2007, 34, str. 854‐861, ilustr. [COBISS.SI‐ID 26450221]
  • PIPAN, T. Epikarst ‐ a promising habitat : copepod fauna, its diversity and ecology : a case study from Slovenia (Europe), (Carsologica, 5). Postojna: Inštitut za raziskovanje krasa ZRC SAZU: = Karst Research Institute at ZRC SAZU; Ljubljana: Založba ZRC: = ZRC Publishing, 2005. 101 str., ilustr., preglednice. ISBN 961‐6500‐90‐2. [COBISS.SI‐ID 220477696]