Impacts of global change on alpine water ecosystems
- Project duration: December 2017 - December 2022
- Project status: Approval by the Scientific Committee
- Funding: Internal funding EURAC (Project)
Climate change and global warming as well as various forms of pollutions pose several questions about the future availability and quality of water resources. Mountain Areas, like the Alps are not only particularly sensitive and vulnerable to all sorts of impacts, but they are highly important to downstream water resources. Hence, monitoring and understanding of water related processes in mountain areas are essential to assess present and future (water) resources.
Within this project we aim reaching an integrated comprehension of the processes and dynamics of water ecosystems. The approach overlaps with the concept of "catchment ecology". Thus, the effects of land-use / land-cover change on water quality in river systems is still an important research question within the AlpWater-studies. Moreover, snow-melting is a key-process for headwater streams and is closely related to global warming. The analysis of their effects on the biological and chemical compartments of lotic ecosystems will be of great importance for the maintenance of the natural balance of river systems.
During the last years the interest of the international scientific community for lotic mountain ecosystems has increased considerably. Actually, mountain fresh water ecosystems belong until today to the less disturbed systems, but are threatened like other areas by human impact. Mountain ecosystems are generally characterized by rough environmental conditions, which limit the development of biological communities and increase the ecosystems’ sensibility. Thus, also small changes in environmental conditions can be revealed quickly. This enhances the importance of these areas being ideal study sites for analyzing natural modifications as well as alterations caused by human activities. Moreover, in mountain valleys, beyond individuals with a broad distribution area, also endemic organisms and species characterized by a very restricted distribution range are living.
The numerous small alpine valleys, which are often not investigated at all from the zoological point of view, thus represent ideal sampling sites for studying sensible organisms.
The study is carried out within the Rio Saldura (BZ), a perennial glacier stream and tributary of the Adige River. It is 22 km long and drains one of the driest valleys of the Alps, which represents the ideal condition to focus on effects of climate changes. To evaluate the influence of the glacier and the longitudinal patters of biological assemblage four sampling stations have been selected at increasing distances from the source (located from 2300 m a.s.l. to 1500 m a.s.l.). The monthly samples of meiofauna have been integrated by chemico-physical analysis of the superficial as well as the interstitial water in order to correlate community composition, diversity and environmental variables.
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