Insect monitoring in the high alpine at Hohe Sonnblick

© Photographs: Sarah Wagner
The  Sonnblick Observatory is a scientific field station located in the central alps at an elevation of 3106 m.a.s.l. which was founded in 1886 and which focuses on weather related questions, but also other projects are conducted there. The station is currently working to establish a biodiversity monitoring program within the LTER (Long-Term Ecosystem Research) framework. Little is known about high alpine ecosystems due to methodological and technical challenges. Therefore, we started a project which on arthropod communities in this extreme environment. Different trap systems are used to gain quantitative and qualitative information and to test which methods are most suitable for these harsh and very variable conditions. The strong winds in high alpine areas are a big problem, but also a possibility for insectivorous species like birds and bats as insects might be driven up by wind currents – either dead or alive. Also, some insects migrate across the Austrian Alps during specific times of the year. As part of the project, we employ Malaise traps, window traps (with different light sources during the night), snow transects which are sampled twice a day, and pitfall traps. Moreover, we are testing a method using a horizontally fixed camera and photography of flying insects in the night sky. This project is investigating which environmental conditions affect the abundance, species richness and the composition of arthropod communities in the Austrian Alps, also considering temporal effects throughout the season. Additionally, the available insect will be considered as a resource for bats and the influence of food supply on the abundance of bats in the high alpine area will be investigated.