High Alpine Lake Biodiversity and Climate Change – A Transdisciplinary Approach (AlpLakeChange)
WICKHAM Stephen – Principal Investigator
The transdisciplinary project “AlpLakeChange”, funded by the Austrian Academy of Sciences (ÖAW), focuses on biodiversity change in alpine waters in the Hohe Tauern National Park. High alpine lakes are sensitive habitats strongly affected by anthropogenic climate change. To understand how climate change affects current and future biodiversity and ecosystem functions, we have defined three central dimensions of our research to create a holistic view of interacting biological, geological and sociological factors:
(1) On our fieldtrips, we will study geological, geomorphological, hydrological, and climatological conditions as well as plankton communities for a set of selected lakes. It will be analyzed how chemical-physical parameters, but also dispersion by national park visitors, affect these microbiomes.
(2) In laboratory experiments, we will focus on ecological mechanisms that influence the current and future composition of biodiversity, such as the ability of large zooplankton to prevent invasions of new lowland species, the importance of hostile environments as a barrier to invasion, and “species sorting”, according to which only the best adapted species become established in a habitat.
(3) In close cooperation with local stakeholders, motivations of national park visitors and their attitudes towards natural habitats will be reconstructed in order to enable predictions about future patterns of visitor behavior in protected regions.
Through our inter- and transdisciplinary cooperation we aim at strengthening the link between science and society by creating a basis to predict the manifold impacts of climate change on alpine lakes and developing strategies to raise awareness among vistors and local stakeholders for the sensitivity of these valuable ecosystems.