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Research activities for identification and prevention of the Jelševniščica and Otovec catchment area pollution with special emphasis on black proteus habitat

Basic Info


Project is focuse on definition of mitigation measures required for favourable habitat for the life and reproduction of the white and black subspecies of proteus (Proteus anguinus anguinus or parkelj) in the catchment area of two Bela krajina karst springs, namely Jelševnišica and Otovski breg.

In order to determine professionally justified, relevant and targeted measures, it is crucial to determine the level and sources of groundwater pollution with special regard to nitrate. As measures and pollution are also spatially conditioned, it is of fundamental importance to define the extent (and hydrogeological characteristics) of the karst catchments of both springs. The three partners will interdisciplinary connect ecological, hydrogeological, agronomic and environmental research with their activities.

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High water level at the location of black proteus in Otovski breg, photo Blaž Kogovšek.


Project group consists of:

Project is financed by:

  • Slovene Research Agency (50 %),
  • Ministry of the Environment and Spatial Planning (33 %) in
  • Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Food (17 %).

Project steps

The project will be implemented according to the following logical steps:

  • definition of proteus habitat requirements, definition of extent and hydrogeological characterization of the catchment area (project activities A),
  • evaluation of anthropogenic pollution by linking pollution to the level of pollutant groups (project activities B)
  • identification of measures to ensure the favorable status of the underground habitat of the white and black proteus subspecies (project activities C).

This is at the same time a sequence of project activities, as the definition of the hydrological catchment area is crucial for the analysis of the pollution load, and the latter is crucial for the definition of mitigation measures.

In 2021, we are actively working on project activities A, while the simultaneous sampling of water with chemical and microbiological analyzes and preparations for the continuous measurement of nitrates are already interfering with the scope of activities B.


The project focuses on challenges that were partially addressed in the past (Jelševniščica catchment area, water quality of both springs) or not addressed at all (Otovski breg catchment area, main pollution sources of both springs, mass nitrogen balance) and are important as a basis for action at systemic and practical level, especially in the field. The concrete results will be, depending on the phases of the project, as follows:

  • A.1: study of proteus sensitivity on different parameters, distribution map of white and black proteus in the western part of the Bela krajina;
  • A.2: hydrogeological conceptual model of the Jelševniščica and Otovski breg catchment area, hydrogeochemical conceptual model (isotopic and basic chemical composition of water), reports of physico-chemical analyses;
  • A.3: hydrogeological map of the Jelševniščica and Otovec catchment area with defined narrower and wider catchment area;
  • B.1: a list of natural background values of key parameters with standard deviations;
  • B.2: map of land use in the hydrological area of both springs with exposure of potential sources of pollution;
  • B.3: quantitative conceptual model of nitrogen mass balance, share of key activities in space to immission;
  • C.1: report with a set of implemented and potentially feasible agricultural and communal measures with an analysis of their actual and potential impact on the habitats of white and black proteus in both catchment areas;
  • C.2: document with a defined mitigation measure for improving the white and black proteus habitat quality with all the necessary bases for inclusion in the CAP system, expert basis for measures of the Slovenian NUV 2021 - 2027 in the field of ecosystems dependent on groundwater;
  • C.3: a document setting out a measure to reduce the risks of pollution of the black human fish habitat with all the necessary grounds for inclusion in the CAP system.