About the project

Lautaret site summer 2021Shrubs at Lautaret siteKaserstattalm site summer 2021Kaserstattalm shrubs

LUCSES project is funded by the Austrian Science Fund FWF and the French National Research Agency ANR: I-4969

In a nutshell

The LUCSES project is an international joint project between two research institutions, LECA Grenoble (Laboratoire d'Ecologie Alpine) and UIBK (University of Innsbruck).  The LUCSES project aims at deepening in the knowledge of shrubland ecosystems in mountain areas. More specifically, it focuses on the understanding of how land-use and climate change may impact ecosystem services from shrub-encroached mountain grasslands.

Shrub-encroached mountain grasslands

Ongoing abandonment of mountain meadows leads to their shrub-encroachment and thus to functional changes. These changes affect the characteristics of ecosystems and thus the services of the mountain meadows for us humans: the ecosystem services (ES). Within previous common international projects, researchers involved in LUCSES were already able to identify important ES of mountain grasslands and to model these from the past to the future. Characteristic plant traits such as leaf area, nitrogen- and carbon content of the leaves as well as soil traits such as total nitrogen content and soil organic matter (SOM) are successfully used as indicators of ES (e.g., carbon storage, soil fertility, soil stability). As part of the LUCSES project, the characteristics of shrubs will now be incorporated into this trait-based approach.

The core hypothesis of LUCSES is that shrub colonization results in a tipping point in relationships between traits and processes of nitrogen- and water cycling, and that this change can be related to characteristic plant traits and to mycorrhizal functions. For the first time, functional implication of mycorrhization, which contributes significantly to the nutrient- and the water supply, is also included in this type of trait-based approach.

Our aims

On the one hand, LUCSES provides an unprecedented database of plant characteristics for dwarf shrubs and, on the other hand, the prerequisites for the calculation of ecosystem functions and ecosystem services of shrub ecosystems over a wide range of succession stages. The combination of nitrogen and water balance with the quality and quantity of mycorrhization is a research frontier and leads to a better functional understanding and thus providing fundamental knowledge in alpine plant ecology.

Results of LUCSES are published scientifically, but also on the concept of ecosystem services to decision makers and practitioners within existing communication networks of the involved research institutions LECA Grenoble (Laboratoire d'Ecologie Alpine) and UIBK (University of Innsbruck).

Workflow of the project

The project consists of three work packages:

  • WP1: Field quantification
  • WP2: Climate manipulation
  • WP3: Trait-based ES models
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