Integrated European
Long-Term Ecosystem, critical zone and
socio-ecological Research

LTSER Tyrolean Alps, LTER Obergurgl: New publication on successional pathways of plant communities in a glacier foreland in Plant Ecology

18 July 2023

The scientific term succession describes the mechanisms by which inanimate or disturbed areas are colonised by living organisms. In the Rotmoos valley near Obergurgl, such succession studies have been carried out for decades. The glacier that originally dominated the valley has been melting for over 150 years, releasing areas for recolonisation.

As a result, this open-air laboratory continues to reveal new findings. In a long-term study carried out by a group of researchers at the University of Innsbruck led by Brigitta Erschbamer, the development of plant communities of different successional stages in the valley was examined. Sown experimental plots were established at selected sites together with control plots. All plots were then regularly studied over a period of 25 years. The team concludes that seed and establishment limitations, drought, facilitation deficits, and ageing of individuals are the essential drivers on the studied glacier foreland, creating ‘quasi-stationary’ communities. 

Learn more: Long-term monitoring confirms limitations of recruitment and facilitation and reveals unexpected changes of the successional pathways in a glacier foreland of the Central Austrian Alps

The Rotmoos valley in early summer 2021 (photo credit: Alpine Research Sites, Nikolaus Schallhart)