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Endangerment and protection

In karstic areas, were the main water bodies are groundwater’s, with none or very limited water autopurification abilities, the economic cost of subterranean habitats is priceless. The underground habitats in Dinaric Arc are under high pressure of economic development and are facing the threats such as water pollution, sewage and waste dumping (both legal and illegal), construction of highways, railways and oil pipelines, numerous quarries, uncontrolled water pumping, and construction of many hydroelectric and wind power plants. With a general trend of centralisation, inhabitants are moving from villages to towns, and many type localities of cave species are falling into oblivion what makes confirmation of their exact position impossible. Some cave species, especially beetles, are also frequently endangered in their type localites by illegal collectors from all over the world.

The research and checklist of subterranean fauna is far from being finished and leads us to a general problem of biospeleology in the Dinarics: “inventories of subterranean fauna may be so inadequate that many species may go extinct before being discovered” (Schneider & Culver, 2004), which reveals importance of habitat conservation instead of species conservation. A fast development of the countries in the region, a lack of legislation and regulations that would protect the subterranean habitats and ensure the sustainable development in the area on the one hand, and extremely high subterranean biodiversity of the entire region on the other hand, highlights the necessity for urgent conservation of the subterranean ecosystems in the entire Dinaric Arc.

Laws and regulations


The Nature Protection Act is the base line regulation governing caves protection in the Republic of Croatia.

Caves are naturally shaped underground cavities more than 5 meters in length that can be accessed by man while the dimensions of the entrance therein are smaller than the depth or length of the cave, according the Act.

All caves are property of the Republic of Croatia and with submarine caves consists part of National Ecological Network. Discovery of any cave or it's part thereof should be notified to the Ministry of Culture, Directorate for Nature Protection within 15 days. Prior to performing any activity in a cave (e.g. scuba diving, taking photographs, recording movies…) or carrying out scientific research it is necessary to secure permits from the Ministry of Culture.

It is prohibited to damage, destroy and take away speleothems, living organisms, fossil, archeological and other findings from caves as well as to alter habitat conditions within the cave, its above-ground and immediate proximity.

Supervision over performing authorized activities and operations in speleological objects perform nature protection inspectors. Supervision in protected areas among inspectors perform the supervisors of the public entity administering protected area. All subterranean fauna including bats are strictly protected. The Red Book of Cave Fauna of Croatia is available.

Caves are considered as threatened habitat and it is necessary to enforce conservation measures. The National Strategy and Action Plan for the Protection of Biological and Landscape Diversity define the basic strategic and action plan for protected underground habitat and underground fauna.

All legal documents can be found on Ministry of Culture and State institute for Nature protection web pages.