Nationalpark Hohe Tauern

Long-term monitoring

Ecosystem processes

"Leben an Existenzgrenzen im Hochgebirge" (Living at existential limits in the high mountains) brings together eight different fields of research, which pursue a single, common goal. Long-term monitoring should make changes to the Alpine ecosystem caused by environmental changes visible. The focus of this long-term monitoring project was deliberately placed on mountain ecosystems, because changes, especially in high mountains, can only be verified over long periods of time and be correctly interpreted in terms of their cause-and-effect relationships and consequences. These monitoring projects should be easy to conduct so that other generations of researchers can record information from them for many years to come. For this reason, basic requirements were established according to which the research teams work and which continuously shape the development of their methodology. In order for results to remain comparable even in the long term, each subject team worked on a protocol about the methods used so that sampling will be conducted in many years to come at the same place and using the same procedures. The unique nature of this pilot project is reflected in the fact samples are taken by people from different sectors in the unspoilt core zone of the national park at the same time and under the same conditions and document projects.

Monitoring areas

The Carinthian Seebachtal, the Salzburg Obersulzbachtal and Untersulzbachtal and the East Tyrolean Innergschlöß were selected for the long-term monitoring projects.

The core zone of the national park was selected as the ideal area for long-term monitoring projects. As it is subject to long-term protection against direct human intervention, the core zone is the ideal basis for recording and describing natural terrestrial and aquatic ecosystem processes.

All sites were deliberately chosen to be above the tree line, where very steep environmental gradients are prevalent in the smallest space (snow-melt gradients) and along which the living conditions for plants, ground animals and soil microbes can change drastically over a few metres.

Fields of research

  • Location climate, soil physics, soil chemistry, productivity
  • Botanical vegetation analysis
  • Soil mesofauna
  • Culture-dependent analysis of soil bacteria coomposition
  • Hydrological, chemical and biological signals in micro-catchments in the Alpine zone
  • Large herbivores
  • Cryosphere: glaciers, hydroclimate, permafrost, morphodynamics
  • Zooplankton communities and abiotic parameters in the Alpine lakes


 Related links:

Project reports/information

Multi-year monitoring and research programme – pilot project


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