Biogeochemistry, Paleolimnology and Extreme Ecosystems

The focus of the Research Group Biogeochemistry, Palaeolimnology and Extreme Ecosystems is on the biogeochemical cycles of nutrients and pollutants in lakes, on the long-term history of lake ecosystems, on groundwater microbiology, and on snow and ice as habitats of active (micro-)organisms, but also on theoretical and philosophical aspects of aquatic ecology. Alpine and arctic lakes are sentinels of global change and show quite complex and distinct patterns of atmospheric deposition of metals in different parts of Europe. One of the most astonishing results, however, was the recognition that permafrost and rock glaciers can release tremendous amounts of sulphate, magnesium, nickel and other metals into lakes. Niche separation of bacteria and protists depending on oxygen, nutrient and food availability was a step forward in our understanding of deep lakes. Groundwater, even 800 m below surface, is now seen as an active ecosystem, whereby we put special emphasis on the analysis of chemolithoautotrophic prokaryotes. Also the cryosphere is teeming with life and cryoconite holes on glaciers are not only very old but also different from other water bodies, for they seem to be the only net autotrophic fresh­water systems on Earth. Recently, we reconstructed the first high alpine Holocene temperature record, a subject we are combining now with current monitoring programs (since the 1970s) and studies on biodiversity changes and nitrogen deposition effects in the Arctic.

Bildleiste Limnochemie

Group Members

MSc Students

Katharina Hell
Barbara Post
Christina Wendlinger
Markus Tilg


2012–2014: Climate-driven shifts in permafrost melting and ecotoxicological consequences during the Holocene: chironomid-based reconstructions from periglacial environments in the Eastern Alps. Austrian Science Fund (FWF M1337), Abstract

2011-2015: NICKEL CONTROL: Natural or anthropogenic CONTROL of NICKEL increase in alpine headwaters, Autonomous Province Bozen, Support for high schools, universities and resarch, Abstract

2010-2013: TriPolar - Microbial Life in the Atmosphere as an Extreme Habitat (BMWF, Sparkling Science)
PI: Birgit Sattler, Project details / Projektbeschreibung

2010-2012: MELTING: Impact of MELTING permafrost and rock glaciers on water quality and aquatic organisms in alpine lakes, Austrian Academy of Sciences - Alpine programme, Abstract

2010-2012: Climate-driven alterations in biodiversity and functioning of high alpine lakes in the Tyrolean Alps over the past millennium. Austrian Academy of Sciences – Global Change Programme, Abstract

2010-2012: GLAC.LIFE: Rotmoosferner as a Model Glacier for Microbial L.I.F.E. (laser induced fluorescent emission) as non-invasive tool to access carbon contribution of a glacial ecosystem. Alpine Research Center Obergurgl, University of Innsbruck, PI: Birgit Sattler

2010-2012: CRYO.LIFE: Rotmoosferner as Modell Glacier for Microbial L.I.F.E. HYPO Bank Tirol, PI: Birgit Sattler

2010-2012: Das älteste Eis Tirols(?) und seine Mikrobiologie: Die Hundalm Eis- und Tropfsteinhöhle (Tirol), D. Swarovski Fond, PI: Birgit Sattler gemeinsam mit Christoph Spötl, Geologie

2010 – 2011:  permAfrost -  Impact of climate change on rock glaciers and permafrost. Austrian Academy of Sciences (ÖAW), Abstract 

2008-2012: NSINK: Sources, sinks and impacts of atmospheric nitrogen deposition in the Arctic, WP5: Aquatic Ecosystems and Palaeolimnology (Abstract), FP7-People ITN-2007.1.1, ENV.215503

2008-2011:  PermaNet: Permafrost Long-Term Monitoring Network. EU Alpine Space, Abstract

2007-2009: Holocene Climatic and Limnological Changes: Chironomid-Based Reconstruction from a Remote High Alpine Lake (Tyrol, Austria). Austrian Science Fund (FWF M 964-N10)

2007 - 2009: BIPOLAR Bildungsinitiative Polarforschung - Lernen und Forschen mit FERMAP. (BMWF, Sparkling Science) PI: Sattler, Birgit 

2006 - 2009: CRYO.RAD. Microbial Communities of CRYOconites as Sensitive Indicators for RADioactive Impact on Alpine Glaciers. Austrian Academy of Sciences (ÖAW). PI: Birgit Sattler

2004-2010 Holocene Climate Change Reflected in a Remote High Alpine Lake, A Multiproxy Investigation of the Sediment Record, (FWF R 29N10; 2003, continued 2005 – 2010) Abstract

2004-2009 EURO-limpacs – Integrated Project to evaluate the impacts of global change on European freshwater ecosystems, GOCE-CT-2003-505540

2004-2007 Small Alpine Lakes EU Interreg III TIR111 (VEN111)

2004-2007 Impact of algal composition, protistan grazing and limiting nutrients on the seasonal succession, biomass distribution and grazing defense mechanisms of bacterial populations in a lake FWF P 17554-BO6

2004-2007 Autotrophic bacteria in groundwater systems. Austrian Science Fund, P17649.

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