The 3497m-peak Mount Schrankogel belongs to the highest mountains of the Austrian Alps. Its northern and eastern side is surrounded by glaciers and glacier forelands. Its southern to western faces, however, are not interrupted by glacier. Established in 1994 as the first comprehensive alpine to nival long-term monitoring site for high-altitude vegetation in the Alps, with ca. 1000 permanent plots of 1x1m arranged in transects of 30x3m or smaller ranging from 2900m to 3450m. Main purpose is ecological climate impact research. In 2001 it became a master site of the GLORIA network: e.g. method development and testing for species recording in 1x1m plots for GLORIA was partly conducted on Schrankogel. The first major resurvey of plots was made in 2004, the second resurvey was conducted in 2014. Besides long-term monitoring, several other research approaches were/are carried out at the Schrankogel site, such as species and vegetation modeling, vegetation mapping, phenological studies of alpine and nival plants, exclosure studies for grazing impacts at the lower altitudes of the site, soil studies, snow pattern studies (two permanent snow cameras), surface and soil-temperature measurements. In 2014, the the scope was extended to other organism groups such as soil microbiota, soil mesofauna (Oribatida and Collembola in particular), and surface-dwelling arthropods.
Monitoring of climate change impacts on alpine to nival habitats and biota
Methoden & Expertise zur Forschungsinfrastruktur
Around 1000 permanent plots of 1x1m², established in 1994, are distributed between 2900m and 3450m spanning across the alpine-nival ecotone from the upper margin of closed alpine grassland to the nival zone. Positions of the corner points of each quadrat were accurately surveyed using a tachymeter and photographs were made from each plot. Percentage cover of all vascular plant species and total percentage cover of bryophytes and lichens as well as the cover of abiotic surface components were recorded. Further, a Digital Elevation Model of 1x1m-resolution, covering the entire study area, was generated.
Between 1994 and 2006, a number of additional studies were added to the extensive basic dataset of Schrankogel: Besides an area-wide vegetation mapping (ABRATE 1998; DULLINGER 1998) and a description of subnival to nival plant assemblages (PAULI et al. 1999), model studies on vegetation distribution and patterns in relation to the macro- and micro-relief and micro-climate were conducted (GOTTFRIED et al. 1998; GOTTFRIED et al. 1999, 2002). Based on these studies, scenarios of future distribution patterns of keystone species were developed. Further, the influence of domestic and wild-living ungulates (ERTL et al. 2002; Hülber et al. 2005), nitrogen gradients (HUBER et al. 2007), permafrost patterns (HAEBERLI et al., unpubl.), flowering phenology and photoperiodism of alpine and nival vascular plants (KELLER & KÖRNER 2003; Hülber et al. 2006, 2010), as well as patterns of bryophytes (HOHENWALLNER et al. 2011) were investigated. Soil T at Schrankogel is measured at around 60 positions distributed over the mountain's southern slope system since 1997 on an hourly basis. A major resurvey in 2004 showed both increases of vascular plant species richness as well as declines in species cover of all subnival-nival species (Pauli et al. 2007). Conicidence in the position of the alpine-nival ecotone was found as well as an upward shift was indicated by comparing summer-snow data of the Eastern Alps and Schankogel vegetation data (Gottfried et al. 2011). In 2009, two remote cameras were installed to monitor the snow pattern on the slope system and cushion plant surveys were conducted (Nießner 2011, Prohaska, 2011). In 2014 the third major permanent plot resurvey is planned.