Slovenia’s biodiversity lives underground

14 June 2010 | News story

IUCN Regional Director for Pan-Europe, Dr Hans Friederich, and the Director of the IUCN Office for South East Europe, Boris Erg visited Slovenia for discussions about biodiversity.   Slovenia is famous for its karst landscape, a result of weathering of the limestone rocks that form the foundations of the country.  This includes many depressions, sinking rivers and springs, and some of Europe’s most impressive cave systems, including World Heritage Area Skocjanske Jame.

The Ministry of Environment and Spatial Planning, a Government Agency Member of IUCN, has passed laws to protect the cave systems in Slovenia, partially to protect the underground fauna.  No other country has studied its subterranean species more thoroughly, and the famous Proteus is one of the many endemic species found in the underground rivers of Slovenia. (see photo)

Discussions are now under way to consider how best to protect the wider karst landscape, beyond the borders of Slovenia.  The IUCN World Commission on Protected Areas is involved in a meeting to discuss karst and world heritage in mid-June and a symposium about cross-border protected area management in the Dinaric mountains is planned for  the end of June.  Dr Friederich said : the attraction of the karst landscape for tourism and the wealth of the underground fauna makes the karst of Slovenia extremely important.  However, there are important features in neighbouring countries, and we would like to see a way that IUCN can help with improved management of the whole of the Dinaric mountain range.

Dr Friederich and Mr Erg also met with Martin Solar the Director of Triglav National Park in the north of the country who explained that the parliament is discussing the new legislation for the park.  Mr Solar said : the new law will create a core area that is effectively protected, an intermediate zone with access to visitors and a buffer zone where local people are allowed to carry out a range of activities.  The law has been extensively reviewed through a thorough consultation process, involving all local communities in the area.

Finally, a meeting was arranged with the President of Slovenia, Dr Danilo Türk. Dr Türk where the upcoming  UN General Assembly in September was discussed, along with the Conference of Parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity in Nagoya, Japan which will take place in October.