The impacts of climatic changes can significantly alter a soil's inherent quality. Soil organic matter deserves special attention in this context because of its key role in many important soil processes, its rapid response to environmental changes, and its feedbacks to the atmospheric climate system.
The overall objective of the proposed research is to enhance the understanding of climate change impacts on the soil resources of Alpine ecosystems, with particular emphasis on soil organic matter dynamics.
The project will capitalize on the researcher's extensive experience in studying soil development along climatic gradients in the Andes. The study area of the proposed project is located on the Hochschwabkarst massif, from where drinking water is supplied to Austria's biggest cities, Vienna and Graz.
Four methodological approaches will be combined to investigate climate effects on soil processes:
- the empirical study of soils along climatic gradients (i.e. altitudinal climosequences);
- manipulation experiments (i.e. translocation of soil cores to climatically different areas);
- in-situ decomposition experiments in different elevation zones; and
- simulation modelling.
Proposed analytical methods include isotope dilution techniques and Fourier-transform infrared spectroscopy. With the experimental data collected in this project, existing carbon and nitrogen cycling models will be adapted and validated for the studied Alpine environment.
The validated models will be used to assess the impacts of projected future climate change on the soil resources and associated environmental consequences.
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