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.


Körner Ch 2011: Leben auf dem Dom. Die Alpen 4:60
Körner Ch 2011: Survivre sur le Dom. Les Alpes 4:60
Scherrer D, Körner Ch 2011: Topographically controlled thermal-habitat differentiation buffers alpine plant diversity against climate warming. J Biogeogr 38(2):406-416
Körner Ch 2011: Coldest places on earth with angiosperm plant life. Alpine Botany, DOI 10.1007/s00035-011-0089-1
Scherrer D, Körner Ch 2010: Infra-red thermometry of alpine landscapes challenges climatic warming projections. Global Change Biol 16:2602-2613
Körner Ch 2009: Global statistics of ’mountain' and ’alpine' research. Mountain Res Dev 29:97-102
Körner Ch 2007: Alpine ecosystems. Encyclopedia of Life Sciences, John Wiley.
Körner Ch 2007: The use of “altitude” in ecological research. TREE 22:569-574
Körner Ch 2003: Alpine plant life, 2nd edition. Springer, Heidelberg.
Körner Ch 1999: Alpine plant life. Springer, Heidelberg.
Körner Ch, Spehn E (eds.) 2002: Mountain biodiversity. A global assessment. Parthenon, Boca Raton


GMBA - Global Mountain Biodiversity Assessment. Leitung und Sekretariat am Bot. Institut Basel.
VALUrsern - The ecological and socio-economic consequences of land transformation in alpine regions.