Climate, Geology, Surrounding Vegetation

The Inn Valley, in particular the vicinity of Innsbruck, belongs to the central European dry valleys- the average annual rainfall of 860 mm rapidly evaporates due to the frequent, dry south wind (Foehn). In the winter the snow on the south west side of the mountain is subject to strong winds and melts due to the warm wind.

The Patscherkofel is an explicit Foehn (warm southerly wind) mountain with average wind speeds of 4-5 metres per second. Strong winds of 15-20 (30) m/s regularly occur. The south and west face are most strongly affected by the Foehn. The Foehn has a major effect on the snow level and distribution of snow, which follows the contours of the terrain. In exposed locations the snow is blown away and these are free of snow even during the winter months, whilst on the lee side the snow lies, or is amassed - this also applies to the ditch in the lower end of the Alpine Garden, where snow remains are found at the end of July. Apart from its mechanical effects, the Foehn also contributes a further stress factor to the vegetation due to the concomitant dry air.

The Patscherkofel represents the most western outpost of the Tux (lower) Alps, forming part of the Northern Tyrolean Central Alps. One of the most significant characteristics of this 2246 metre high mountain is the peak that has been rounded off through ice age glacier erosion. In contrast, slightly to the east the Glungezer extended above the ice age glacier network resulting in a conspicuously much craggier peak. The complete glaciation of the
Patscherkofel is one reason for the relative lack of alpine species compared to that of the higher peaks in the vicinity.
The geological structure of the mountain base is fairly consistent. The dominant mass consists of lime-free quarz phylite, with local inclusions of basalt rock (chalk, dolomite): the peak area differs as it is made up of gneiss and feldspar, belonging to the Oetz Valley crystalline adjoining to the west.
The dominant soil types in the high mountains and sub-alpine forests are acid to podsol brown soils. Above the present tree line, close to the peak/mountain top, we find strongly acidic brown earths hinting at a once higher tree line, as well as iron humus podsol.

Surrounding Vegetation
The Alpine Garden lies immediately on or above the tree line. Due to global warming the tree line has been pushed markedly upwards during the last decades. The typical tree line on the Patscherkofel consists of Arolla Pine (Pinus cembra) mixed with Larch (Larix decidua), and more rarely Norway Spruce (Picea abies). As in other alpine regions the tree line was lowered through cultivation, especially by pasturing and the measures accompanying this activities. Large pine copses were previously used as sought after building material for the pipes of the salt mine in Hall. In earlier times the mountain was covered in forest up to its peak. Further up we find dwarf brushwood heath, dominated by the Alpenrose (Rhododendron ferrugineum) followed by the Creeping Azalea (Loiseleuria procumbens) providing the transition to alpine meadows. Rich alpine herb fields, particularly at the lower part of the garden, lead to the dense timber forest. Ski runs are to be found on either side of the alpine garden which are used as pasture meadows during the summer months.


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