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Mountain Biology

Focus Group Mountain Biology

Mountains are highly interesting study areas to understand biological processes along steep environmental gradients. In the focus group “Mountain Biology”, we will discuss recent research and challenging research questions within:

  • Scientific Workshops on “Mountain Biology” in three subgroups
  • An Excursion with in-situ scientific sessions on diverse topics

Workshop topics

1. Ecosystem processes and soil-plant-atmosphere interactions in mountain environments

Ecosystem processes present a link between organisms and environment. Important processes include decomposition, production (of plant matter), and nutrient cycling. This group will address a) the characteristics for ecosystems and ecosystem processes in mountain regions, b) interactions between plant-, soil and microorganisms in mountain ecosystems and their functions in processing nutrients and c) feedbacks among all these processes that couple land, atmosphere, and biogeochemical cycles in the context of global change.

  1. How will climate change and land-use change influence biogeochemical cycles in mountain ecosystems?
  2. How do soil-plant-atmosphere interactions respond to global changes and what are the consequences for ecosystem processes?

2. Biodiversity in mountain ecosystems

Mountain regions and their relief offer an immense amount of niches that can be occupied by various organisms. Mountain ecosystems are therefore hotspots for biodiversity. In this group, we will focus on different aspects of diversity concerning species and functional level and its role in the ecosystem.

  1. How do environmental changes (climate, land-use) affect species and functional diversity in mountain ecosystems?
  2. What are the driving factors (abiotic, biotic) for biodiversity in mountain environments, on species and functional level?

3. Organismic adaptations to mountain environments

Mountain ecosystems present harsh conditions for organisms in general. Thus, various types of adaptations developed. Organisms that adapted on an evolutionary time scale are now facing short-term climatic challenges.

  1. How well are organisms and populations (plants, animals, and microorganisms) able to adapt to climatic challenges in mountain ecosystems?
  2. Can climate-driven changes of the environment exceed physiological tolerances and affect functionality and productivity of plant species in mountain and alpine ecosystems?

Interactive excursion with inputs from all participants

In the area around Obergurgl, scientific research is carried out since the 1950´s covering all disciplines. Along our way, we will visit several study sites, explain methods and discuss results. Input from all participants are intended and lively discussion is strongly encouraged. We will see and discuss gas-exchange measurements, monitoring via permanent plots, meteorological stations and weather phenomena, primary succession in glacier forelands, plants dealing with temperature stress and biological specialities at the treeline ecotone.

Route: The alpine belt on Hohe Mut (2670m a.s.l.) will be reached by cable car. An excellent view on the glaciers and two glacier shaped valleys allows an imagination of the glacial period and the development of landscape and vegetation. We will hike along the Hohe Mut mountain ridge downhill to the glacier foreland (2300-2400 m a.s.l.) of the Rotmoos-glacier, and further walk out of the valley along the glacier river stream back to the University Center Obergurgl.

Key data: uphill ~100 m, downhill ~800 m, total length ~13 km.

Daily Schedule

Will be published when registration of participants is completed.

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