Science guides alpine grazing practices
A couple of weeks ago, our reporting took us to the Gesäuse National Park, near the geographical center of Austria. High in the limestone mountains of the region, Dr. Andreas Bohner has been measuring the effects of alpine agriculture on the biodiversity and soil chemistry of the pasture lands. Several research plots have been maintained for about 10 years to show changes over time, and the research also helps guide management practices for the pastures, especially within the national park. We also visited a high-tech weather and climate monitoring site on top of the Stoderzinken, where a variety of instruments help show how climate and other factors affect mountain ecosystems. The weather station includes a gage for measuring precipitation intensity. Long-term data from the instrument will show whether intense precipitation events are increasing, as projected by most climate models. The site also features a unique water-collection station, where melted snow and rain percolate as they would naturally through the topsoil. But some of the water is then captured so it can be chemically analyzed. One ongoing research project aims to measure Polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs), a group of more than 100 different chemicals that are released from burning coal, oil, gasoline, trash, tobacco, wood, or other organic substances.