Sensitivity of high Alpine geosystems to climate change since 1850 (SEHAG) SP 7: Short and long term feedback between vegetation and morphodynamic processes

Project leader: Brigitta Erschbamer

Project members: Katharina Ramskogler, Michael Becht, Physical Geography, KU-Eichstätt-Ingolstadt, Gabriele Chiogna, Hydrology, TU München
Markus Disse, Hydrology, TU München, Ulrike Falk, Climatology, University of Bremen, Florian Haas, Physical Geography, KU- Eichstätt-Ingolstadt
Tobias Heckmann, Physical Geography, KU- Eichstätt-Ingolstadt, Inga Labuhn, Institute of Geography, University of Bremen
Ben Marzeion, Climatology, University of Bremen, Norbert Pfeifer, Photogrammetry, TU Wien

Funding: DFG Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft

Duration: 2019 - 2021

The evolution of plant communities, species and functional diversity, vegetation-soil-associations, feedback of the vegetation to disturbances and vegetation changes will be investigated at micro- (colonization), meso- (restoration after disturbance) and macroscales (landscape changes), considering the time slices 1850-1920, 1920-1980, 1980-today as well as disturbance and elevation gradients.

We hypothesize that (i) cryospheric changes (glacier, permafrost, snow) influence colonization and community evolution; (ii) a close interaction exists between vegetation, soil and geomorphological/hydrological disturbances, resulting in specific functional plant responses; (iii) disturbances facilitate range shifts and the migrating species are characterized by specific functional traits; (iv) climate change is the essential driver of vegetation changes for the time slices, the most pronounced effects occurring for the time slice 1980-today.

The first hypothesis will be tested along a glacier foreland, outlining processes of primary succession and effects of morphodynamic processes on successional species. The second hypothesis deals with vegetation feedback to geomorphological and/or flood events along elevation gradients from the treeline to the subnival zone at all three study areas. By means of a functional approach, responses of species are studied on disturbed and undisturbed sites. The third approach will account for species migrations from lower to higher altitudes and for the question if disturbances facilitate the establishment of species from lower altitudes. For the fourth hypothesis we will analyse and evaluate the land cover changes throughout the time slices. By means of multivariate statistics, vegetation data will be regressed on environmental, geomorphic/hydromorphic and functional trait data.
All data serve as baseline data for modelling past and future vegetation.

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