Caves offer numerous natural resources such as water and construction materials. They are used as shelters, for storage and for medical purposes. They also offer opportunities for scientific studies and education by providing an insight into past geomorphological, ecological and anthropogenic conditions. Among the most common economic activities of cave exploitation is tourism. Its consequent negative effect on cave systems ranges from morphology transformation (e.g. new cave opening, enlargement of passages), climate and chemical processes changes, threats to habitats and similar.

Due to the very slow natural processes towards recovering the natural state, anthropogenic alterations in the underground are virtually everlasting. The past and present utilisation of caves for tourism could be markedly more sustainable if it were more thought-out and in line with scientific guidelines. In line with the Slovenian Cave Protection Act, there is a proposal to arrange the custodianship of show caves that will define the scope and utilisation level as a necessary compromise between preservation and use for tourism. It is also an opportunity to set a sustainable way of utilising existing show caves.

In the frame of the project, existing and new indicators of ecology, geology and climate will be used in order to assess the impact of tourism on the cave environment and on aquatic and terrestrial habitats. The focus lies on the two most popular show caves in Slovenia – the Postojna Cave (Postojnska jama) and Škocjan Caves (Škocjanske jame). The findings about the impact of past and present tourist use, together with the indicators and guidelines, will be valuable for managers of show caves as natural sources, for sustainable cave use and for preparing long-term management plans.


Project steps

The project is carried out within five interlinked work packages (WP):


WP 1: Characterising the environment of selected cave systems

The entrance to Postojnska jama in former times.Škocjanske jame – material transport along bedding planes.


WP 2: Cave climate – impact of tourism on abiotic parameters

Postojnska jama – measurements of the cave climate parameters.Measurement of CO2 concentration with IR portable meter.


WP 3: Microbiota – parameter to determine anthropogenic pressures

Postojnska jama – air samplingPostojnska jama – sampling of alluvial sediments.


WP 4: Cave fauna – responsiveness to tourist use

Zguba jama – sampling of epikarst fauna.


WP 5: Dissemination of results

Temporal dynamics of the project.

The timeline is summarized by the above table, which shows activities by quarter. Light intensity is appoximately proportional to the intensity of the performance of a specific task; white box means that the task will not be performed.


Project manager

Funded by

Slovenian Research Agency


karst • caves • tourism • protection • natural resources • climate • biodiversity • cave carrying capacity