What is the most typical karst formation, which is dependent on the underground flow of water?
The most typical karst formation is a karst cave.
The closely connected research disciplines that study the karst as a natural landscape type are referred to collectively as karstology. The main disciplines involved are geology, geography, geomorphology and biology. Caves are the most typical karst formation, since the shaping of the karst is dependent on the underground flow of water; this is why karstology pays particular attention to caves.
Geology is the study of the origin, development and structure of the Earth.
Geomorphology studies the relief of the Earth's surface of land and seabed.
Biology is the study of life. It studies the behaviour of living and extinct organisms on the Earth.
Slovenia’s classical Karst or Kras is one of the world’s hotspots of subterranean biodiversity. In the karst caves of Slovenia, between 400 and 450 species of cave fauna have been identified. The largest and best known is the Proteus. But in the dark environments of the karst underworld, where food is sparse, a whole series of invertebrates adapted to life in caves can be found. These are mainly tiny representatives of cave snails, crabs, arachnids, centipedes and insects.
Cave-dwellers: a stone marten, edible dormouse, lesser horseshoe bat, Schreiber's bat, Proteus, slenderneck beetle, cave crickets, cave centipede, cave Diplura, cave herald snails, subterranean water snails, cave tube worm, cave hydrozoan, subterranean triclads.
The first representatives of cave-dwelling animals in the world were described using specimens from the Slovene Kras. Early natural scientists discovered the first cave animals particularly in Postojna Cave and other nearby caves, which gives Postojna the justified reputation as the cradle of speleobiology – a biology discipline involved in the study of subterranean life.
Shortly after the discovery and scientific description of the first cave slenderneck beetle in Postojna Cave in 1832, the interest in science circles for the search of animals in caves increased. With time, the study of cave fauna, which we must now extend to the study of life in subterranean habitats, has become of interest to several researchers. And so, even on our ground, a new branch of biological sciences named SPELEOBIOLOGY, or the science of studying life in the underworld, was born. Speleobiology thus examines life in all subterranean environments, not only in caves, which makes the use of the term cave biology less suitable.
Authors: Andrej Mihevc, PhD and Slavko Polak