Institute of Botany
Alpine plant ecology
Our long term activities aim at a functional understanding of alpine plant life. Overall our research shifted gradually from studying resource acquisition (e.g. photosynthesis) toward resource investment and questions of developement. As with treeline, sink activity seems to be the major determinant of growth. A common misconception associated with alpine plant life finds its expression in the use of the terms 'stress' and 'limitation'. See the critique in:
Körner C (1998) Alpine plants: stressed or adapted? In: Press MC, Scholes JD, Barker MG (eds.) Physiological Plant Ecology. Blackwell Science , 297-311
Ongoing experimental work:
The influence of photoperiod on growth and development in high elevation taxa (Ph.D. by Franziska Keller in cooperation with the Dept. of Geography, University of Fribourg). We test, whether and which species are responsive to earlier snow melt. It appears there exists a suite of different sensitivities, suggesting biodiversity shifts. We also tested the influence of nutrient addition on high elevation pioneer plants and run a longer term project on the interactive effect on sheep tramplng, nitrogen deposition and warming as part of the Swiss National Project NFP 48.
A Europe-wide assessment of ground temperatures in alpine grassland is part of ALPNET (see associated organisations). The assessment provides a basis for comparing biodiversity in alpine biota from 69 to 37 degree of northern latitude. (Nagy et al. (2003) Ecological Studies, Vol. 167. 577 p. Springer, Berlin). A synthesis of research in functional ecology of alpine plants over the past 100 years was published in 1999.
GMBA - Global Mountain Biodiversity Assessment
VALUrsern - The ecological and socio-economic consequences of land transformation in alpine regions.
ALPFOR - Alpine Forschungs- und Ausbildungsstation Furka