Underground wilderness 

The concept of the “underground wilderness” includes the mysterious and often overlooked spaces and ecosystems that thrive beneath the Earth’s surface. It refers to a hidden realm of caves, tunnels, corridors, abysses and other subterranean spaces. This land is harbouring unique geomorphological formations and life forms partially or completely adapted to a dark environment.

This largely unexplored domain offers valuable insights into the resilience of life and the interconnectedness of ecosystems. The study of underground wilderness sheds light on the delicate balance of these environments, highlighting the need for conservation efforts for these hidden, yet vital, components of Earth’s diversity.

This largely unexplored domain offers valuable insights into the resilience of life and the interconnectedness of ecosystems

Diversity and underground areas

The exploration of the concept of subterranean wilderness raises the question of whether subterranean wilderness encompasses more than just ecosystems with subterranean biodiversity. Does it include areas without life in addition to a specific spectrum of diverse life forms?

Very likely yes so, and this exploration will lead us into the dual nature of underground environments. We have to think not only about living ecosystems adapted to the dark depths, but also about unknow areas deep below the surface of the Earth without any signs of life.  Understanding the multiple aspects of subterranean wilderness thus contributes to a comprehensive view of the complexity and variation of this topic.

Threats to the protection of underground spaces

The most significant threats to the protection of underground areas result from human activities associated with cave exploration and subsequently developed tourism. Explored underground spaces face potential damage, for example, in the construction of access infrastructure such as walkways and stairs. These activities can disturb delicate ecosystems and geological formations.

The breaking off and theft of stalactites and stalagmites, as well as the intense commercialization involving extensive lighting and infrastructure development, pose next substantial risks. Balancing the desire for accessibility with conservation is crucial to mitigate these impacts. Effective management strategies, public awareness, and respecting tourism rules are essential to safeguard the integrity of explored underground wilderness.

Protection of underground wilderness

Strict protection of underground wilderness, is one way how people can protect underground areas. Beside that, various categories, as defines by IUCN, provide additional tools which can be used in other specific condition. 

The complex of various nature protection categories also fully contributes to the protection of underground spaces. Various categories reflect to the various situation created by human activities. Man, always wants or need to implement certain activity in un-protected but also protected areas. The similar situation is also in underground areas.

It can be needed to develop tourism infrastructure, store the water to supply nearby settlements or use unique cave environment to cure sick people. Important is the strictly defined purpose of particular cave and striking a balance between what is defined by the people and conservation.

Underground wilderness sites are often very strictly protected due to their inaccessibility

Concept of underground wilderness definition 

Build up on existing wilderness definition of valid in Europe underground wilderness should meet 3 main wilderness principles:

•       no human extraction e.g. water extraction, mining, etc.

•       no human intervention e.g. permanent human infrastructure

•       ongoing open ended undefined natural dynamic processes.

Conservation efforts should prioritize responsible tourism practices, public awareness, and the implementation of sustainable management strategies. Addressing these challenges will ensure the protection of the unique ecosystems and geological wonders found in explored underground spaces. This approach can secure their ecological value for future generations.


Underground wilderness sites are often very strictly protected due to their inaccessibility, but at the same time, without adequate legislative protection, they are often damaged during discovery. 

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