Karst areas in Serbia

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Distribution of karst in Serbia (19 kb)


Karst in Serbia occurs in bordering parts of the country.
In Eastern Serbia it belongs to Karpatho-Balkanian geotectonic unit. It is characterized by isolated limestone areas separated by Neogene basins whose sediments cover the borders of the limestone areas. Some of the limestone masses are separated by Tertiary volcanic rocks. The thickness of limestone mass is not uniform, though the average thickness is 500 m. Karst is developed on mountain plateaus of various altitudes, starting with 1500 - 1600 m asl (at Suva planina Mt.), but mostly at the altitudes 1000 to 1100 m (at Beljanica, Devica, Ozren, Tupiznica, Vidlic, Tresibaba and Kucaj Mts.), and also much lower at 500 to 700 m (on Miroc, Kalafat, Tresibaba Mts.). Karst in Serbia is mostly covered by forest and grass vegetation. Exposed karst is scarce, related mainly to limestone escarpments and steep hillsides.
Karst in Western and South-western Serbia belongs to the Dinaric tectonic unit. Here as well, limestone mass is divided into larger or smaller complexes, mostly by deep canyons. Limestones are much thicker than within Karpatho-Balkanian tectonic unit.


Division of limestone mass was caused by considerable presence of fluvial erosion in Serbian karst. Numerous allogenuos courses dissected, or are still dissecting the limestones. In many cases, the development of karstic processes converted the surface drainage into underground drainage systems. That way numerous systems of swallow holes and related springs were formed. Both alluvial and cavernous ponor zones and swallow holes are present, draining rivers and streams of considerable flow.

A great number of karst springs exist in Serbia. Both types of outflow (gravitational and siphonal) occur among the springs with major discharge. Springs are characterized by high discharge oscillations, many of them drying up during dry periods. During that periods, the discharge of the strongest springs is reduced to several hundreds l/s. Compared with the average maximal discharge amounting to 10 m3/s, during dry period reduction is several tens of times. Great number of springs is used for water supply of adjacent settlements.

Many river courses sink on the contact with limestones, reappearing again on the surface in the form of karst springs. The underground water connections identified so far, confirm the presence of well developed hydrological systems in the karst of Serbia.


In the surface morphology of Serbian karst, dolines and uvalas abound. Microkarstic features occur only sporadically, and poljes are rare. Dolines are of various forms and dimensions. Usually they are filled with residual material, rarely are they rocky. At some areas swallow holes are very numerous.

Amongst larger karst features, uvalas are the most numerous. Originated by karstification of valleys in karst, uvalas are elongated and follow ancient valley direction. They could occur by combining of dolines, but that is less frequent case. Most of the uvalas contain courses sinking underground, but there are as well dry uvalas without water flow.


Speleological explorations of the caves in Serbia have been carried out during the past hundred years. Alhough central speleological cadastre does not exist, it is estimated that more than 4000 caves were explored. Out of that number, about ten caves were, or still are arranged for touristic exploitation. Because of comparatively well preserved river system, taking into account dimensions, dominating cave types are: inflow caves, outflow caves and through caves. The length of largest varies from 2 km to 7.5 km.

Because of comparatively small thickness of limestone mass, the denivelation in caves is small. The depth of largest caves is between 150 and 280 m.


Take a look at the map and the lists of some prominent features of Serbian karst: largest uvalas and poljes, major karst springs, longest underground coursers in Serbian karst, and longest and deepest caves in Serbia.

text by Predrag Djurovic


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