University of Innsbruck

Lecture: Mountain Systems WS 2023/24

Mountain Panorama

"You can’t conquer a mountain, though it may conquer you." (Jimmy Chin)

Mountain Systems


Mountainous areas are impressive and important landscapes of our planet. Depending on the inclusion of only immediate forelands (with highly urbanized areas) or even of large forelands with mega cities, global mountain terrain outside Antarctica covers between 12.5 and 27% of the Earth’s land surface and has 0.5 to 1 billion inhabitants. Due to their topographical complexity and climatic as well as geological variability over short distances, mountains are rich in biological and socio-cultural diversity and provide manifold ecosystem services crucial for people living both in mountains and lowlands. For instance, around one quarter of the global population depends on fresh water, collected by mountains as atmospheric barriers and released from their huge natural reservoirs.

The entire lecture will be orientated along two major questions:

  • How do mountains impacts different squeres (e.g. Atmosphere or Biosphere)?
  • How are mountain affected by global change?
Benefits from lecture:
  • Comprehensive, interdisciplinary overview about mountain systems
  • Insights into processes relevant for mountain regions accompanied by pratical excersises
  • Awarness about past, current and future challenges as well as strategies for sustainable developments
  • Perspectives for professional development in the field of mountain research in Innsbruck and beyond
Special features of lecture:
  • Inputs from experts with different backgrounds
  • Mixed lecture format with interactive elements (lab visits, data anaylsis etc.)
  • Group work with students from various disciplines supporting peer-to-peer learning
Main lecturers:


P - Presentation , D - Discussion


Block 1 - Introduction

P&D: 02.10.2023, 16:15-17:45; Prof. Stefan Mayr, Wolfgang Gurgiser

  • Overview about the lecture contents and tasks
  • Definition of mountain regions and provides (ecosystem) services
  • Mountain research at the University of Innsbruck

Block 2 - Atmosphere and Climate

P&D: 09.10.2023, 17:15-18:45; Wolfgang Gurgiser

  • Impacts of mountains on the atmosphere
  • Climatic changes in mountain regions
  • Impacts of climatic changes in mountain regions

Accompanying activities: Analysis of climate datasets

Block 3 - Hydrosphere and Cryosphere

P&D: 16.10.2023, 16:15-17:45; Wolfgang Gurgiser
  • The role of Mountains in the water cycle
  • Past and current state of the cryosphere in mountain regions
  • Future perspectives on water supply and water use

Accompanying activities: Glacier data analysis with OGGM Edu 

Block 4 - Biosphere: Terrestrial systems

P&D: 23.10.2023, 16:15-17:45; Stefan Mayr
Thermal Image Stubai

Block 5 - Biosphere: Aquatic systems

P&D: 30.10.2023, 16:15-17:45; Stefan Mayr

Block 6 - Energy and Resources

P&D: 06.11.2023, 16:15-17:45; Wolfgang Gurgiser
  • Historic prespective and current state of energy production and resource exploitation
  • (Ongoing) Conflicts of interest with other (ecosystem) services

Block 7 - Alpine Tourism 

P&D: 13.11.2023, 16:15-17:45; Wolfgang Gurgiser
  • Historic development
  • Importance and adverse effects
  • Interaction between climate change and Alpine tourism

Block 8 - Natural Hazards

P&D: 20.11.2023, 16:15-17:45; Wolfgang Gurgiser

Erdrutsch, Mure in China

  • Types of natural hazards specific for Mountain Regions
  • Current dynamics due to global change

Accompanying activities: Exchange with avalanche modeling expert and developer

Block 9 - Agriculture and Forestry

P&D: 27.11.2023, 16:15-17:45; Stefan Mayr
  • Characteristics of agriculture and forestry in Mountain regions
  • Current challenges and changes for sustainable developments

Block 10 - Sustainable Development

P&D: 04.12.2023, 16:15-17:45; Wolfgang Gurgiser

Wolken im Gebirge

  • External pressures on mountain regions
  • Specific challenges and solutions for mountain regions

Accompanying activities: Exchange with expert from Alpine Convention Office

Block 11 - Discussion of Output from Block 2 & 3

P&D: 11.12.2023, 16:15-17:45; Wolfgang Gurgiser

Block 12 - Discussion of Output from Block 4 & 5

P&D: 08.01.2024, 16:15-17:45; Stefan Mayr

Block 13 - Presentation of papers

P&D: 15.01.2024, 16:15-17:45; Stefan Mayr, Wolfgang Gurgiser

Block 14 - Lab visits

P&D: 22.01.2024, 16:15-17:45; Stefan Mayr, Wolfgang Gurgiser

Block 15 - Conclusions

P&D: 29.01.2024, 16:15-17:45; Stefan Mayr, Wolfgang Gurgiser
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