Universität Innsbruck


ERODYN - Shallow erosion dynamics in mountain grasslands of South Tyrol: Monitoring, process analysis and mitigation measures

Vermessungsarbeiten im Naturpark Puez-Geisler
Bodenabtragsfläche in Südtirol
Projekthomepage http://www.mountainresearch.at/erodyn/
Team Clemens Geitner, Martin Rutzinger, Andreas Mayr, Charlotte Gild, Stefan Mayr, Robert Niederheiser, Fabian Gruber
Projektlaufzeit Juli 2017 - Juni 2020
Fördergeber Autonome Provinz Bozen-Südtirol

In South Tyrol mountain meadows and pastures are an essential element of the traditional cultural landscape, with multiple socio-economic and ecological benefits (ecosystem services). These steep grassland slopes of the montane to alpine elevation zone, however, are frequently affected by shallow eroded areas (in German also known as Blaiken). These areas are characterized by displacement of vegetation together with unconsolidated material, often resulting in a considerable loss of soil and degradation in terms of mountain agriculture, landscape aesthetics and natural hazards.

The objectives of the ERODYN project are:
  • monitoring and process analysis of eroded areas on mountain grasslands in South Tyrol
  • improve the understanding of shallow erosion, its dynamics and driving factors
  • investigate impacts of shallow erosion in terms of ecology, mountain agriculture as well as sediment mobilisation and natural hazards for an integrated assessment in the study areas
  • provide recommendations for erosion mitigation to local stakeholders

Methodologically, the project has a strong focus on both close-range and remote sensing with different sensors (multi/hyperspectral and LiDAR) and platforms (aerial, drones and terrestrial/in-situ). Combined with automated workflows for information retrieval from orthophoto archives and terrain data, this opens new possibilities for the detection and mapping of shallow eroded areas in a regional inventory as well as the analysis of erosion dynamics during the last decades. At local-scale test sites, continued monitoring with enhanced spatial, spectral and temporal resolution is performed using unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs). Possibilities to combine geomorphological knowledge, spatial context and remote sensing for the differentiation of erosion process types are assessed. The approach is complemented with detailed field surveys for ground truthing, geomorphological and geological interpretation as well as for soil and vegetation analyses. This strategy aims at an integrated monitoring and assessment of shallow erosion, covering a large range of scales and levels of detail in the spatial, temporal and semantic domain.

A main focus of the project is on interactions between vegetation and erosion, taking different geological units and locally prevailing land use practices into account. In this context, vegetation indicators for the erosion susceptibility of mountain grassland ecosystems and for the restoration potential of eroded sites are investigated. The detectability of vulnerable vegetation types in hyperspectral remote sensing data is assessed, striving to provide a tool for erosion susceptibility monitoring. With its novel monitoring methods and expected improvements in process understanding, the project ERODYN contributes to evaluate past, current and future developments and to give recommendations for sustainable management of mountain grassland in South Tyrol.

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