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Karst Biosphere Reserve, Slovenia

The Karst Biosphere Reserve encompasses the kocjaske jame Regional Park including the kocjan caves, designated both as a World Heritage site and a Ramsar Wetland of International Importance. 

Designation date: 2004

Photo gallery ǀ  Press release


Regional network: EuroMAB

Ecosystem-based network:



    Surface :
    60,193 ha

    • Core area(s) : 413 ha
    • Buffer zone(s) : 45,000 ha
    • Tansition zone(s): 14,780 ha

    Location: 48°39'N - 19°29'E

    Administrative authorities

    Albin Debevec
    Park Skocjan Caves, Slovenia
    Skocjan 2, St 6215 Divaca

    Tel: (386 0)5 70 82 110

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    Ecological Characteristics

    The specific underground ecosystems, typical of the karst, are well known for their geomorphological, geological, and hydrological formations that are due to the limestone bedrock. The latter is the main reason for the constant lack of running surface water in the karst and the creation of conditions for cave formation. It also influenced the way animals and plants have adapted, the occurrence of rare and endemic species such as cave salamander (Proteus anguinus), invertebrates and bats, and the rational use of water by farmers. The kocjan caves are composed of a system of eleven interconnected underground caves, flat-floored valleys extending over collapsed dolines, natural bridges and sinkholes. They are adorned with stalactites, stone curtains and broad rimstone pools. This site is the reference for all karst studies worldwide: for this reason the Biosphere Reserve is named the Karst Biosphere Reserve.

    The Biosphere Reserve is important to demonstrate the rational use of water and management of water sources. Typical karst land is ecologically very vulnerable due to large underground pools of potable water. The Biosphere Reserve seeks to integrate and co-ordinate sustainable agricultural practices with the preservation of caves and local hydrological processes, controlling surface and subsurface pollution from fertilizers and wastewater.

    Socio-economic characteristics

    Three villages are included, with a total population of about 12,000 people. As there was a relatively low level of development in the past, the villages are now benefiting from several sustainable revitalization projects. Local people are encouraged to use old organic farming techniques, especially in food production, with emphasis on apple and honey production and sheep breeding. Local people have created the kocjan Tourist Society, which plays an active role in the protection and conservation of the natural and cultural heritage as well as in promoting and applying principles of ecotourism. In some parts of the caves, a type of climato-therapy for patients with respiratory diseases called speleotherapy takes place. The area has a rich cultural heritage with many archaeological, ethnological and historical monuments and traces of the tradition of milling and sawmilling. The Biosphere Reserve is run by the Regional Park authorities: park management staff submits a management plan to the Public Agency Škocjanske jame, which in turn submits it further to the Government of the Republic of Slovenia for acceptance. The Public Agency, in co-operation with the Ministry of Environment, Spatial Planning and Energy is responsible for its implementation.



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    Last updated: February 2020