LTER Zöbelboden - Long-Term-Ecological Research and Monitoring

© Roland Mayr

Client: UN Convention on Long-Range Transboundary Air Pollution (CLRTAP); LTER Austria, EU LTER infrastructure; ministries, universities, research institutes


Starting point and overall objectives

LTER (Long-Term Ecological Research) Zöbelboden was established in 1992 as the Austrian Integrated Monitoring station under the UN Convention on long-range trans-boundary air pollution (CLRTAP). In 2006 it became part of LTER Austria, the national LTER network. LTER Zöbelboden covers a small forested catchment (90 ha) of a karstic mountain range in the Kalkalpen national park. Today, LTER Zöbelboden represents one of the best known karst catchments in Europe with long-term data series of the major components of its ecosystems.


Objectives of the project

LTER Zöbelboden is a small, well definable catchment of 90 ha in a Europe-wide network of investigated areas. Material inputs, pollutants and nutrients via air and precipitation are measured as well as their effects on the ecosystem. Their behavior within the ecosystem is determined in a comprehensive manner. With standardized methods the long-term development of the ecosystem is studied. Outputs through surface waters and into groundwater are determined. The data is used to reveal long-term trends of ecosystem functions and services which they provide as affected by air pollution and climate change.


Our approach

Meteorological and air pollution monitoring is carried out at a clearing area (EMEP station; includes measurement of fog deposition) and on a tower (45 m height). Three intensive plots exist for the detailed measurement of element fluxes through the main forest types (bi-weekly to monthly analyses of deposition and soil water). Catchment runoff chemistry is measured at the main spring with a measuring weir (weekly analyses) and through irregular sampling at all other springs. Additional karst-hydrological measurements are in place in the main rivers surrounding the mountain range. On 64 permanent plots (regular 100 m grid) forest tree monitoring, ground vegetation and soil sampling is carried out (5 to 10 year interval). Additional permanent plots exist for forest floor vegetation, lichens, bryophytes and birds (3 to 10 year interval). LTER Zöbelboden is managed by the Umweltbundesamt GmbH. Sampling of chemical specimen is done by local staff. Chemical analyses are carried out by the laboratory of the Umweltbundesamt in Vienna. All data and metadata from monitoring and research projects are stored in a semantically structured database (MORIS) and reported regularly to the Program Centre of Integrated Monitoring.


Added value

Long-term monitoring of the effects of environmental pressures on ecosystems is used for the evaluation and adaptation of national and international policies (e.g. UN air pollution protocols under the LRTAP convention). But LTER Zöbelboden is also a core site of LTER Austria, LTER Europe and the international LTER network as well as the EU infrastructure of highly instrumented sites called EXPEER. These are networks of scientists, institutions and research infrastructure for ecological research with a focus on long-term processes. Researchers from across Austria and Europe use these sites for their studies when long-term data, expensive infrastructure or complex research logistics are on demand.