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The Gesäuse Nationalpark was founded in 2002 and is located in Styria, in the Center of Austria. It is Austrias third largest National Park with an area of about 11,000 hectares. The Gesäuse is characterized by a mountainous landscape, which is cut by the river "Enns". Most parts of the Nationalpark are covered by mountain forests. Other important habitats are alpine grasland, rock and scree habitats and pastures. The Enns with its alluvial forests and its small islands as well as the numerous freshwater springs represent very special habitats within the mountain ranges. Because of the great range of altitude differences within a small area in the Gesäuse National Park, there is a dense concentration of extremely diverse habitats and, consequently, of species of animals and plants. Furthermore, the Gesäuse is known for its exeptional richness in endemic species.
One of the most important purposes of the Gesäuse National Park is the conservation of the plants and animals and their natural habitats. Beside the protection of the natural habitats, the maintainace of mountain pastures with a sustanable cultivation and the renaturation of artificial spruce forests are also important aims of the National Park. Apart from these, the education is another mayor purpose. This concerns education for kids and teens with special programs like for school classes and the junior ranger program. A special attractions for visitors is the "Willow dome" in the center of the National Park. This is a structure formed from living willow rods and it represents the largest living structure in the Alps. It provides a place to experience the natural world, for research and education. For adults there is also a variety of educational offers like guided nature walks, foto workshops and observation of wildlife. Another highly important purpose of the National Park is the research. For management purposes a lot of research concerning vegetation, animals and natural processes is needed. Futhermore the National Park supports the work of researchers and students who do their research work in the Park. Additionally, there are special research programms like the GEO day of biodiversty or the "spring week" which aimed to observe the spring of the National Park Gesäuse.
Methods & Expertise for Research Infrastructure
Research in the Gesäuse NP concentrates in implementing its core tasks of protecting habitats and species. Most of it is therefore research into applied conservation, with basic research taking second place. Applied conservation research includes documenting habitats and species in the national park, basic research includes long-term research and monitoring of changes in the natural landscape. In the Gesäuse NP the focus is on dynamic habitats like avalanche chutes, windthrow areas, scree gullies or gravel banks in the river. Initial results underline the special significance of these ecosystems shaped by extreme weather for biodiversity in the national park. In terms of long-term research, over the last seven years the Gesäuse NP has established a network of permanent monitoring sites in diverse habitats (springs, running waters, forest, high mountain pastures, peaks, etc.). In addition to monitoring the vegetation in these sites, the focus is on identifying various groups of animals as indicator species. These special climate change monitoring projects in the national park include studies of flora and fauna at peaks (GLORIA) and the creation of a network of metereological measuring stations that represents all altitudinal zones and expositions. The national park works closely with universities on numerous projects.