Slovenian Researcher Writes First Comprehensive Book on Shallow Subterranean Habitats

Postojna, 9 January - Slovenian karst researcher Tanja Pipan launched in June 2014 the first comprehensive overview of shallow subterranean habitats. The book was published by Oxford University Press and is the result of a decade of research and is the first comprehensive work on habitats located just below the surface.

According to Pipan, the research of shallow subterranean habitats is a completely new field in the global speleobiology, the research of life in caves.

These habitats are located a few centimetres to several metres below the surface of karstic landscape and can be terrestrial or aquatic. They are different from caves in that they are much closer to the surface and are exposed to temperature fluctuations; what is more, these habitats also have a greater density of organic material than those deeper below the surface.

"Organisms literally live within their food, which is just the opposite of general opinion that subterranean animals live in an environment where food is scarce both in the terms of quantity and quality," said Pipan. The most common subterranean organisms are small crabs measuring only a millimetre which have adapted especially for the life just under the surface.

"They are called epikarstic specialists because they live in the upper-most rock layer above karstic caves and nowhere else," said Pipan. There are still many undiscovered and unrecorded species, which is a big scientific discovery.

Slovenia is considered the cradle of karst research since the times of 17th century scholar Janez Vajkard Valvasor and Pipan believes that Slovenia's scientific community can easily compare to other top scientists.

"What is more, we brought karstology to an even higher level - a UNESCO karst research centre was established only recently as part of the karstic doctoral programme at the Nova Gorica University which is undoubtedly a recognition and a success that has not remained unnoticed."

"Shallow Subterranean Habitats" is not the first book by Pipan published by Oxford University Press; five years ago the publisher launched a more general book on biology of caves and other subterranean habitats written by the researcher. The book served as the base for numerous researches in Italy, Spain and Romania, as well as the US, China and Russia. She has written both of her books in cooperation with researcher David Culver.