Forest ecosystem function in the Calcareous Alps is under threat from intensifying natural disturbance regimes, raising serious questions over the future provision of key ecosystem services. It is likely that climate change will drive an increase in wind-throw and bark beetle events in Central Europe, with forests of the Calcareous Alps representing potential hotspots of future disturbance occurrence.
This represents an alarming issue due to Austria’s dependence on the services from these ecosystems. Evaluating this risk is however currently limited by insufficient understanding of how disturbance impacts on forest carbon (C) cycling. Forest C dynamics regulate a number of important ecosystem services (e.g. atmospheric CO2 sequestration, drinking water provision), and their response to disturbance is an important determining factor of ecosystem resilience. Generalized paradigms of ecosystem disturbance are very limited in their ability to explain the changes and development in forest C stocks and fluxes after stand-replacing disturbance, with evidence indicating that these dynamics are strongly governed by ecosystem-specific factors. Unfortunately, empirical data on disturbance impacts on forest carbon cycling in the Calcareous Alps is severely lacking and fragmented.
Considering the huge social, economic, and ecological importance of these ecosystems, the project C-Alp II will investigate C consequences of forest disturbance in the Calcareous Alps. The project employs a chronosequence approach, synthesising data on carbon dynamics from test sites in different stages before- and after forest disturbance. The project build upon existing empirical data from previous test sites and an LTER site (LTER Zöbelboden), by conducting new measurements and analyses at these and additional experimental sites. One of the test sites is arranged as a manipulation site which was artificially disturbed in 2015.
VSI was involved at the final phase of the exciting project and helped with data analysis and preparation of the final report.