Nationalpark Hohe Tauern

Long-term monitoring

Ecosystem processes

"Leben an Existenzgrenzen im Hochgebirge" (Living at existential limits in the high mountains) brings together eight different fields of research, which pursue a single, common goal. Long-term monitoring should make changes to the Alpine ecosystem caused by environmental changes visible. The focus of this long-term monitoring project was deliberately placed on mountain ecosystems, because changes, especially in high mountains, can only be verified over long periods of time and be correctly interpreted in terms of their cause-and-effect relationships and consequences. These monitoring projects should be easy to conduct so that other generations of researchers can record information from them for many years to come. For this reason, basic requirements were established according to which the research teams work and which continuously shape the development of their methodology. In order for results to remain comparable even in the long term, each subject team worked on a protocol about the methods used so that sampling will be conducted in many years to come at the same place and using the same procedures. The unique nature of this pilot project is reflected in the fact samples are taken by people from different sectors in the unspoilt core zone of the national park at the same time and under the same conditions and document projects.

Manual of Methods

In 2016, the Austrian Nationalpark Hohe Tauern (NPHT) initiated a long-term ecological monitoring program in the alpine belt of its core conservation area. The program adopts the international LTER concept of long-term ecological monitoring and includes the study of terrestrial and aquatic systems. It applies highly standardized observation and analysis methods. A first (German) synthesis can be found at An English synthesis of the first five years of research is under preparation for 2022. Here we provide the detailed description of the study design and the methods employed. The individual chapters, associated with the 8 research modules involved, are freely available for downloads. The authors are responsible for content, the NPHT layouted the contributions and manages the documentation of the program in cooperation with the Austrian Academy of Sciences, Vienna. This program receives financial support from the European Union, the Federal Republic of Austria and the National Park Hohe Tauern. The research groups contribute their academic staff and their institution’s laboratory facilities. All contents of this manual fall under international copy right rules. We can offer this manual only in German, but we hope that the technical details can also be depicted by non-German speaking readers. In doubt, we suggest to contact the authors.


Table of Contents


Modul 01 - Standortklima, Bodenphysik, Bodenchemie, Produktivität

Modul 02 - Botanisch-Vegetationskundliche Analysen

Modul 03 - Bodenmesofauna

Modul 04 - Bodenmikrobiologie

Modul 05 - Hydrologische, chemische und biologische Signale in Micro-Catchments der alpinen Zone

Modul 06 - Großherbivoren

Modul 07 - Kryosphäre: Gletscher, Hydroklima, Permafrost

Modul 08 - Zooplanktongemeinschaften und abiotische Parameter hochalpiner Seen



Monitoring areas

The Carinthian Seebachtal, the Salzburg Obersulzbachtal and Untersulzbachtal and the East Tyrolean Innergschlöß were selected for the long-term monitoring projects.

The core zone of the national park was selected as the ideal area for long-term monitoring projects. As it is subject to long-term protection against direct human intervention, the core zone is the ideal basis for recording and describing natural terrestrial and aquatic ecosystem processes.

All sites were deliberately chosen to be above the tree line, where very steep environmental gradients are prevalent in the smallest space (snow-melt gradients) and along which the living conditions for plants, ground animals and soil microbes can change drastically over a few metres.

Fields of research

  • Location climate, soil physics, soil chemistry, productivity
  • Botanical vegetation analysis
  • Soil mesofauna
  • Culture-dependent analysis of soil bacteria coomposition
  • Hydrological, chemical and biological signals in micro-catchments in the Alpine zone
  • Large herbivores
  • Cryosphere: glaciers, hydroclimate, permafrost, morphodynamics
  • Zooplankton communities and abiotic parameters in the Alpine lakes


 Related links:

Project reports/information

Multi-year monitoring and research programme – pilot project


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