Natural heritage

The Idrija Geopark is located at the juncture of the Alps and Dinaric Alps. A quarter of the geopark is plateaus: the eastern part of the geopark encompasses the karstic Rovte Hills (Rovtarsko hribovje). There are many plateaus that have been named after hamlets: the Ledine Plateau (Ledinska planota), Vrsnik Plateau (Vrsniška planota), Dole Plateau (Dolska planota) and Zavratec Plateau (Zavraška planota). The western part of the geopark encompasses the Vojsko Plateau (Vojskarska planota), plateaus around the villages of Idrijske Krnice and Šebrelje and the terraces in Čekovnik. Some features of these plateaus are karstic areas among non-karstic ones, low level of underground water and rare karstic phenomena. The southern part of the geopark encompasses the area above the Idrijca River: the Črni Vrh Plateau (Črnovrška planota) with polje in Črni Vrh and Zadlog. Typical of this area are karstic forms on the surface as well as underground (inside the limestone). In the southernmost part of the Črni Vrh Plateau there are some steep hills with summit elevations between 900 and 1200 metres. The plateaus are separated by valleys and steep slopes full of watercourses, many of which are torrents. The biggest rivers, each flowing through a valley, are the Idrijca and Belca River. They join in Idrijska Bela and wind on as the Idrijca River to the town of Most na Soči.

The Idrija Geopark area is geologically well-explored. The main reason for this was the mercury mine. A lot of well-known experts on mining, geology and metallurgy has come to Idrija either to work or to explore. In the Idrija Geopark area there is a lot of rock: from carbonate rock, rock from the Permian, Triassic, Cretaceous to rock from the Palaeocene and Eocene. Tectonic movements began some time before the Triassic and continued throughout the period. The ore deposit of mercury was formed in this period as well. The settlement was interrupted by active tectonic movements in the Early Cretaceous, when the typical flysch rock was formed. In the Miocene the rock changed its forms due to massive subduction of the Adriatic Plate under the Eurasian Plate. These changed structures can still be seen in the area. Numerous faults also contributed to the present geological structure of the area. 

The scientists that came to Idrija only for mining reasons did not explore only the local geology, but also its botany. Phytogeographical and geomorphological features of the area around Idrija are more similar to those of the Dinaric Alps than to those of the Alps. The most typical trees in this area are fir and beech trees (Omphalodo Fagetum  Abieti-Fagetum dinaricum), growing in the altitude range between 500 and 1250 metres. The forests are rich in Pteridophyta and Spermatophytes. Among the habitat types, protected by the EU, there are the vegetation on arid and semi-arid grasslands with a large number of protected Orchidaceae, communities of crevices, screes and rocky grasslands. A special attention and protection is provided for wet meadows and marsh communities, which are very rare and not typical of Idrija. Even more important is the right proportion of these plants. Only good protection of them and their environment can provide their future existence.

The woods around Idrija are a part of the Trnovski Gozd karstic plateau, which stretches to the woods in Croatia. Here live and reproduce a lot of big mammals (bears, wolves, martens, otters, wildcats, deer, wild boars...) and a number of small ones (dormouse and other rodents, hedgehogs, shrews, bats...) Among alien species there are lynx, whose population is decreasing fast and may soon become extinct. Another such species is chamois, which lives in mountains and gorges.

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