OPERATING INSTITUTE: Umweltbundesamt GmbH.

MAIN PURPOSE: Air pollution, organic matter dynamics, biodiversity, N dynamics, C sequestration.

ECOSYSTEM TYPE: Spruce and spruce-beech forests in karst catchment. - Where?

EXPERIMENTAL TREATMENTS: Managed and unmanaged forest, N and C enrichments.

LOCALISATION: 47.8414314641997 14.44218635559082

FACILITIES: The Zöbelboden was esta-blished in 1992 as the only Integrated Monitoring station in Austria under the UN Convention on long-range transboundary air pollution (CLRTAP).
In 2006, it became part of LTER Austria. It covers a small forested catchment (90ha) of a karstic mountain range (500 to 950m above sea level) in the Kalkalpen national park. The Zöbelboden represents one of the best known karst catchments in Europe with long-term data series of the major components of its ecosystems. Sampling of chemical speci-mens is done by local staff. Chemical analyses are carried out by the laboratory of the Umweltbundesamt in Vienna. All data and metadata from monitoring and research projects are stored in a semantically structured database.
Recent developments at the site include:

  1. Establishment of a carbon budget for an intact and a disturbed forest stand including all major pools and fluxes;
  2. Measurement of N2O in an intact and a disturbed forest stand;
  3. Equipping the intensive plots and the runoff weirs for high resolution water sampling (a few hours) of heavy rain events (this includes the precipitation, the humus and soil lysimeters and the runoff weirs);
  4. Measurement of soil and catchment scale dynamics of dissolved carbon and nitrogen during heavy rain events using high reso-lution sampling (three hours) and analysis.

 CONTACT: T. DIRNBOECK (This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.)

More information on the moovie “Monitoring & Forschung - 20 Jahre Zöbelboden” available on youtube.

● Hartmann, A., M. Kralik, F. Humer, J. Lange & M. Weiler, W. (2012). Identification of a karst system’s intrinsic hydrodynamic parameters: upscaling from single springs to the whole aquifer. Environmental Earth Sciences 65: 2377–2389.
● Holmberg, M., Vuorenmaaa, J., Posch, M., Forsius, M., Lundin, L., Kleemola, S., Augustaitis, A., Beudert, B., de Wit, H.A., Dirnböck, T., Evans, C.D., Frey, C.D., Grandin, U., Indriksone, I., Krám, P., Pompei, E., Schulte-Bisping, H., Srybny, A., Vána, M. 2012. Relationship between critical load exceedances and empirical impact indicators at Integrated Monitoring sites across Europe. Ecological Indicators 24: 256–265.
● Jost, G., Dirnböck, T., Grabner, M.-T. & Mirtl, M. 2011. Nitrogen leaching of two forest ecosystems in a Karst watershed. Water Air and Soil Pollution 218: 633–649.



TA PROJECT: Climate Change impact on tree growth (CC-Imp)

ExpeER TA Site: Hesse, FRANCE; Achenkirch, AUSTRIA; Klausenleopoldsdorf, AUSTRIA; Zöbelboden, AUSTRIA; Hoglwald Forest, GERMANY; Eifel, GERMANY
TA User (visit): Pierluigi Bombi, CNR-IBAF, Italy (March, 2015 – 05 days)
Project Description: Recent Climate Change is recognized as one of the main threat to natural ecosystems (Walther et al., 2002; Parmesan and Yohe, 2003; Root et al., 2003). Climate Change influences several aspects of species biology, such as physiology (e.g. Valentini et al., 2000), phenology (e.g. Peñuelas and Filella, 2001), and distribution (e.g. Kelly and Goulden, 2008). Species range shifts are due to changes in habitat suitability across space, which drive species to move towards those areas where climate continue to fulfill the species niche (Wiens et al., 2009). Species distribution models are often used for predicting future range shifts under climate change scenarios and adapting conservation strategies (Guisan and Zimmermann, 2000).
Nevertheless, the validation of species distribution models is difficult in dynamic scenarios and their real applicability is still debated (e.g. Araújo et al., 2005). In addition, in order to plan effective measures of impact mitigation, an instrument for detecting the real effects of climate change on natural ecosystem is required. We hypothesize that the spatial pattern of dynamic response (as tree growth) to climate change can allow to disentangle multiple effects of different drivers (e.g. habitat alteration, pollution, climate change), providing a key for validating models and monitoring ecosystem dynamics. In particular, in sites close to the front border of a shifting range, the environmental conditions are becoming more suitable than in the past. Therefore, we expect that in these sites tree growth has speeded up during the last years. On the contrary, in sites close to the rear border, the environment is less suitable than in the past and we can expect that tree growth has slowed down during the last years. Similarly, sites far from both front and rear borders are as suitable as in the past and we can expect that tree growth is rather constant. The detection of this spatial pattern of growth trends can confirm the model outcomes and highlight the occurring impact.
The aim of this project is to test our hypothesis and to set up a method for identifying climate change effect on forest ecosystems. To do this, we will use three species (i.e. Abies alba, Picea abies, and Fagus sylvatica) with different distributions and environmental requirements. On the basis of their current distributions, we will predict their range shifts due to climate change and we will verify whether their growth is following our expected spatial pattern. If we will find the expected pattern of growth for the three species, we will obtain at the same time a strong field-based validation for our models and a ring of alarm for European forests impacted by climate change.

Development of a regional hydrological and biogeochemical model

TA User (visit): Andreas Hartmann, University of Freiburg, Institute for Geo- and Environmental Natural Sciences, Germany (March, 2015 – 05 days)
Project Description: In past studies at the LTER Zöbelboden, Dr Hartmann and the local team of researchers developed and applied simulation tools to simulate and predict the hydrological and biogeochemical behvior of the test site (Hartmann et al., 2010, 2012, 2015). As it is regarded to be representative for its region (National Park “Kalkalpen”) it is now time upscale the information gained from the long-term monitoring at the LTER Zöbelboden site to apply the model on a regional scale, which is crucial for understanding the measured impact on larger scales. Regional simulations and predictions of water availability and its quality will facilitate the present and future water and ecosystem management of this valuable nature reserve.

Groundwater invertebrate drift at karst springs: a tool for assessing karst biodiversity and community dynamics (BIOKARST)

TA User (visit): Tiziana Di Lorenzo, Institute of Ecosystem Study, CNR - National Research Council of Italy (February, 2015 – 05 days)
Project Description: The subterranean environment harbours a unique fauna of unexpectedly high diversity.Thousands of species have been described from shallow and deep aquifers, hyporheic zones of streams and rivers, springs, caves and saturated zone of karst. Groundwater organisms (stygobionts) have long fascinated biologists because of its adaptation to the extreme conditions of ground water, such as their convergent morphology, loss of pygments and eyes, and the elaboration of extraoptic sensory structures. Groundwater communities are known to encompass most of the major taxonomic groups encountered in surface water habitats. Stygobionts exhibit a high degree of endemism and ecological specialization and are known today to be widespread, occurring in nearly all groundwater environments and throughout the world. However, information on their geographic coverage is still patchy and the biodiversity of this environment remains poorly known compared to that of freshwater surface habitats. Several aspects of the study of groundwater fauna create special difficulties, mainly related to the restricted access to the subterranean environments, such as karst systems. Many karst aquifers are often physically inaccesible due to the lack of extensive cave systems. However, collecting groundwater fauna at the outlets (springs) of a karst systems has proved to be a useful method to investigate the karst community and its biodiversity.
Groundwater species show different aptitude to dispersal, depending on their intrinsic expansionistic behavior, on micro-habitat location and species-specific dispersal capabilities and habitat preferences. Collecting groundwater drift at karst outlets such as spring has proved to give information about groundwater community dynamics, habitat partitioning and ecological preferences.
The aim of this project is to enhance the level of information about groundwater diversity and its dynamics through sampling groundwater drifts at the main outlets of a karst system. The Zöbelboden represents one of the best known karst catchment in Europe with long-term data series of the major components of its ecosystems. Moreover, sampling of chemical specimens is done by local staff at the main spring on a weekly base and through irregular sampling at all other springs. The project objectives are to integrate the chemical analysis by performing a preliminary biological sampling survey at the springs of Zöbelboden kasrt site, in order to collect the faunal drift. The results of the preliminary sampling will provide the first information of groundwater biodiversity at Zöbelboden site. Furthermore, based on these results, a regular sampling scheme could be proposed for further investigation aimed at assessing groundwater community dynamics and the ecological preferences of its species.

Hydrological and biogeochemical modeling using LTER data.

TA User (visit): Andreas Hartmann, Univeristy of Freiburg, Institute for Geo- and Environmental Natural Sciences, Germany (May, 2013 – 10 days).
Project Description: Due to the strong hydraulic heterogeneity of karst systems the simulation of their rainfall-runoff relationship provides a special challenge for model developers. In most karst regions, hydrologic and hydrogeological characteristics and spatial information about groundwater dynamics are extremely limited. The karst catchment “LTER Zöbelboden” in Austria provides excellent long-term data for model development and evaluation. The system is drained by several springs with strongly varying hydrological behavior that drain from the slopes or directly to the surrounding streams. To cope with this particular challenge, a model was developed that provides simultaneously the discharge of two surrounding stream sections and at two observation weirs within the system. To improve the degree of process representation, transport routines within the model are used to produce time series of hydrochemical compounds that are compared with the observations in addition to the discharge observations. That way, the uncertainty going along with the simulation of karst systems can be reduced. Additionally, it enables the model to provide solute balances at daily, monthly or annual time scales for the simulation period, as well as for future scenarios.