Hydrologic balance and global change:
future outlook for mountain areas in the face of changes in land use and climate

A project in the frame of the programme Sparkling Science, supported by the Austrian Federal Ministry of Science and Research.


Project Coordinator:

Universität Innsbruck, Institut für Ökologie
Univ.-Prof. Dr. Ulrike Tappeiner 

Partner School: 

HLFS Land- und Ernährungswirtschaft Kematen
Mag. Gabriele Geisler
Dr. Kerstin Zangerle 

Partner Institutions: 

EURAC-Europäische Akademie Bozen 
Dr. Erich Tasser

Institut für Botanik/Universität Innsbruck 
Dr. Suzanne Kapelari  

Climate change and the decline of mountain agriculture are modern developments with far-reaching consequences for the hydrologic balance of mountain ranges. Mountain areas are characterized by intricate structures and extreme conditions and react very sensitively to changes. But the impact can be felt far beyond the actual mountain area. All large rivers rise in mountain areas and more than half of humanity depends on the water stored in mountain ranges. All the more important then to be able to understand the impact of land use and climate change on the hydrologic balance in mountain areas as precisely as possible.

The project Top-Klima-Science is a research cooperation at international level: the Institute of Ecology at the University of Innsbruck and the European Academy Bolzano are coordinating their efforts with their partner school HLFS Kematen in Tyrol. Two classes with more than 60 students are involved in all areas of the project, from forming hypotheses to field work to analysing and presenting the findings.

The project Top-Klima-Science involves investigating the evaporation across various land-use types (intensively and extensively used meadows and pastures as well as fallow land) throughout the Stubai valley in Tyrol, measuring surface run-off and infiltration and gathering additional information on vegetation, micro-climate, soil and the ecophysiology of key species. By replanting vegetation blocks from high altitude in lower areas and vice versa we will also analyse the impact of temperature changes. Such labour-intensive work was only made possible due to the involvement of the partner school.

The study provides an essential input for modelling the hydrologic balance of an entire valley and opens up an opportunity to analyse the impact of land-use and climate change scenarios.


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