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 ProjectDetail

Modelling the interaction between water cycle, vegetation and climate in Alpine environments Project description Project description

Financing:  Autonomous Province of Bolzano
Period: 2011–2014
Contact: Giacomo Bertoldi

 

Background

Climate change has relevant impacts on the water cycle with implications for the spatial and temporal supply of water resources. Therefore, new environmental and water management politics are required, but their development is hampered by poor quantitative knowledge. Mountains are particularly sensitive to climate change and at the same time represent a key water resource not only locally but as well for the population in the surrounding low-elevation areas. Because of the complexity of mountain landscapes and the high climatic variability at a local scale, a more detailed quantification of the water balance is required in comparison with low-elevation areas.  Therefore, there is a strong research need to improve the capability of models able to quantify changes of the water cycle and its interactions and feedbacks with climate and vegetation in mountain areas.

 

Goals

The research project HydroAlp aims to quantify the local scale effects of climate change on the water cycle in Alpine regions. Thus, an innovative modelling framework, whichaccounts for the effects of basin morphology on runoff production and the interactions between soil/vegetation dynamics and climate an integrated way and that can be applied at the scale of Alpine basins will be developed.

 This integrated modelling framework will be used for two practical objectives:

  • Process analysis. An instrument to describe and understand ongoing processes;
  • Scenario analysis. An instrument to assess the local scale impacts of future climate and land-use change scenarios, used in conjunction with the downscaling of hydro-meteorological variables from Regional Climate Models (RCM).

The results obtained with this project will supply the decision makers concerned with environmental planning in the Province of Bolzano an operational evaluative instrument. This modelling system also can contribute to broader environmental monitoring programs.

 

Methods

The spatial and temporal distribution of the following environmental components will be simulated:

  • water resources (as soil water content, runoff production, snow cover); 
  • energy budget components (as surface heat fluxes and soil temperature);
  • vegetation (as evapotranspiration, water stress, yearly vegetation growth cycle).

The model will be validated using field data collected in two catchments representative of different climatic conditions in the Alps (Stubai and Mazia Valleys).   

 

Collaborators

  • Giacomo Bertoldi
  • Stefano Della Chiesa
  • Elisabeth Mair

 

Partners

  • Centro per la difesa Idrogeologica dell’Ambiente Montano dell’Università di Trento.
  • Institut für Ökologie der Universität Innsbruck.
  • Ripartizione Protezione antincendi e civile della Provincia Autonoma di Bolzano.
  • Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering della Duke University (USA).
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