The pilot study region covers the major part of the national park “Northern Limestone Alps” in the province Upper Austria. The region was chosen since it covers a representative variation of environmental conditions of the montane forest belt on limestone bedrock of the European Alps. Annual air temperature is approx. 7-10°C and annual rainfall is between 1500-2000 mm. Snowfall occurs between October and May with an average duration of snow cover of about four months.
Monitoring and Data availability
The national park operates a dense monitoring network of permanent soil and vegetation plots. A meteorological network was established in the early 90ties. Inventories of fauna, flora and habitats as well as various thematic maps exist. The LTER site Zöbelboden is situated centrally in the pilot area (N 47°50'30", E 90 14°26'30") and is embedded in the park-wide monitoring scheme. LTER Zöbelboden covers a small forested catchment (90 ha) of a karstic mountain range (500 to 950 m above sea level) and represents one of the best known karst catchments in Europe with long-term data series (since 1992) of the major components of its ecosystems. Meteorological and air pollution monitoring is carried out at a clearing area and on a tower (45 m height). Three intensive plots exist for the detailed measurement of element fluxes through the main forest types. Catchment runoff chemistry is measured at the main spring with a measuring weir. On 64 permanent plots (regular 100 m grid) forest tree monitoring, ground vegetation and soil sampling is carried out. Additional permanent plots exist for forest floor vegetation, lichens, bryophytes and birds. Various ecosystem models have been used with the long-term data (VSDp, Landscape DNDC, COUP, VarKarst).
Most data of the LTER Zöbelboden is publicly available and documented in the European LTER Metadatabase DEIMS: http://data.lter-europe.net/deims/site/LTER_EU_AT_003. National park data is also available but no coherent documentation exists.
Habitats, flora and fauna
LTER Zöbelboden and the national Park “Northern Limestone Alps” is one of Austria's largest distinct forest area, which has not yet been dissected by public transportation routes and human habitation. Mixed spruce-fir-beech forests, subalpine spruce forests, pastures and alpine habitats characterise the area. The international importance of the Kalkalpen National Park is highly significant. A total of 22 habitat types, including eight that are priority, have been nominated for this Natura 2000 area. A total of 927 plant species (vascular plants), many endemics, have been documented which represent about one third of all plant species that exist in Austria.
Relevant ecosystem services
Karst areas, such as the national park, provide 50% of the drinking water resources for the Austrian population. Karst water is highly vulnerable to ecosystem changes since vegetation and soils are often the only filter against pollution. Forests provide the most efficient protection of the karst water via runoff buffering and retention of potential pollutants in the soil. Biodiversity plays a special role here because this forest function is more efficient the more tree and forest floor species as well as structural diversity occur. Climate change is an important pressure which increases the risk of water pollution through forest disturbances (bark beetle, storms, soil erosion). These disturbances may also release soil carbon and turn national park forests from a sink to a source of carbon and thereby lowering the mitigation of greenhouse gases.
Table of ecosystem services/functions and available data
Dirnböck, T., Grandin, U., Bernhardt-Römermann, M., Beudert, B., Canullo, R., Forsius, M., Grabner, M.-T., Holmberg, M., Kleemola, S., Lundin, L., Mirtl, M., Neumann, M., Pompei, E., Salemaa, M., Starlinger, F., Staszewski, T., Uziębło, A.K. 2014. Forest floor vegetation response to nitrogen deposition in Europe. Global Change Biology 20: 429-440.
Kobler, H., Dirnböck, T., Mirtl, M., Jandl, R., Schindelbacher, A. 2014. Carbon dynamics during forest disturbance at LTER Zöbelboden, Austria. Forest Ecology and Management (submitted).
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.
Römermann, M.B., Gray, A., Vanbergen, A.J., Bergès, L., Bohner, A., Brooker, R.W., De Bruyn, L., De Cinti, B., Dirnböck, T., Grandin, U., Hester, A.J., Kanka, R., Klotz, S., Loucougaray, G., Lundin, L., Matteucci, G., Mézáros, I., Oláh, V. & Preda, E., Prévosto, B., Pykälä, J., Schmidt, W., Taylor, M.E., Vadineanu, A., Waldmann, T. & Stadler, J. 2011. Functional traits and local environment predict vegetation responses to disturbance: a pan-European multi-site experiment. Journal of Ecology 99: 777-787.
Diwold, K., Dullinger, S., Dirnböck, T. 2010. Effect of nitrogen availability on forest understorey cover and its consequences for tree regeneration in the Austrian limestone Alps - Plant Ecology 209: 11-22.
Kobler, J., Fitz, J.F., Dirnböck, T., Mirtl, M. 2010. Soil type affects migration pattern of airborne Pb and Cd under a spruce-beech forest of the UN-ECE Integrated Monitoring site Zöbelboden, Austria. Environmental Pollution 158: 849-854.