Soil diversity in austrian natural forests
Zechmeister-Boltenstern. S



Austria holds an expanded network of Natural Forest Reserves. They are dedicated to research and preservation of biological diversity. The majority of biodiversity is hidden in the soil. Soil and its organisms provide the basis for a vigorous forest ecosystem.
The exploratory focus is on the maintenance of forest’s vitality, taking into account the principles of ecological sustainable forest management.
Soil animals and microorganisms form a regulating community, which breaks down dead organic matter and releases therein bound plant nutrients. In our forest soils live approximately one thousand animal species with one to two million individuals per square meter. The biomass of a fertile soil can add up to more than twenty tons per hectare.
Since decades, biologists have been trying to find strategies for conserving biodiversity. The establishment of natural forest reserves should set a trend. The actual effectiveness of the measures however can only be proven by appropriate long-term scientific documentation.

Aim of the project

is the monitoring and comparison of biodiversity, and population ecology of different groups of organisms in forest communities typical for Austria. Thus, the contribution of distinct forest communities to the conservation of biodiversity can be determined.
Central questions:
  • Which groups of organisms are suitable as indicators for a high biodiversity?
  • Is there a correlation between the biodiversity of different trophic levels (e.g. Microfauna – Mesofauna – Macrofauna) and the spatial structure of the study site?
  • Is there a relationship between biodiversity and nutrient turnover?
  • What are the consequences on ecosystem processes if biodiversity changes?
  • Can we deduce guidelines and recommendations for sustainable forest management?