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Department of Forest Ecology and Soils
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The BFW operates a climate manipulation facility close to the village of Achenkirch/Tyrol in the northern limestone Alps. Currently (Austrian Science Fund - FWF Project P23222 ) the BFW closely cooperates with the University of Vienna and the University of Bayreuth.

Will climate change increase or decrease CO2 uptake?

Climate change will alter many natural processes. To which extend different processes rates become accelerated or reduced will determine the response of forest ecosystems to climate change. Enhanced CO2 uptake from the atmosphere by increased photosynthesis and tree growth could ease atmospheric CO2 concentrations. Opposite, increased decomposition of dead organic matter would release CO2. The overall response of all the different processes is still unclear.

Floor heating for trees

Soil is warmed in 2 x 2m plots during the snow-free period by 4°C since 2005. In 2008 a set of new plots beneath roof constructions (10 x 10m) was added to manipulate soil temperature and precipitation simultaneously. In addition, trenched (roots cut around) plots were established to estimate root respiration. Soil respiration (CO2 efflux) and other greenhouse gas fluxes (CH4, N2O, NOx) are measured throughout the seasons including winters. DOC leaching, soil solution chemistry, root production, mycorrhiza production, microbial community structure, age and chemical structure of different soil fractions are analyzed.

Warmer soil loses carbon

Warming increased the CO2 efflux from the soil to the atmosphere by ~40%. The effect is strong and persistent (> 8 years) and indicates potential long-term loss of carbon from the forest ecosystem to the atmosphere. Artificially reduced summer precipitation however eliminated the warming effects. Dryer conditions reduced soil CO2 efflux especially from warmed plots.

Invitation to EXPEER

The infrastructure is part of the EXPEER project which aims to intensify the collaboration between researchers. Transnational access to the site can be applied in a relatively fast, less elaborative process. Details can be found at the EXPEER homepage . Applications are welcome.


  • Schindlbacher, A., Wunderlich, S., Borken, W., Kitzler, B., Zechmeister-Boltenstern, B., Jandl, R. (2012) Soil respiration under climate change: prolonged summer drought offsets soil warming effects, Global Change Biology,18, 2270-2279.
  • Kuffner, M., Hai, B., Rattei, T., Melodelima, C., Schloter, M., Zechmeister-Boltenstern, S., Jandl, R., Schindlbacher, A., Sessitsch, A. (2012) Effects of season and experimental warming on the bacterial community in a temperate mountain forest soil assessed by 16S rRNA gene pyrosequencing, FEMS Microbial Ecology, 82, 551-562 .
  • Jandl, R., Smidt, S., Schindlbacher, A., Englisch, M., Zechmeister-Boltenstern, S., Mikovits, C., Schöftner, P., Strebl, F., Fuchs, G. (2012) The biogeochemistry of a montane Norway spruce (Picea abies (L.) Karst.) forest: a synthesis of long-term research, Plant Ecology & Diversity, 5, 105-114
  • Schindlbacher, A., Rodler, A., Kuffner, M., Kitzler, B., Sessitsch, A., Zechmeister-Boltenstern, S. (2011) Experimental warming effects on the microbial community of a temperate mountain forest soil, Soil Biology & Biochemistry, 43, 1417-1425.
  • Díaz-Pinés, E., Schindlbacher, A., Pfeffer, M., Jandl, R., Zechmeister-Boltenstern S., Rubio, A. (2010) Root trenching - A useful tool to estimate autotrophic soil respiration? Case study in an Austrian mountain forest. European Journal of Forest Research, 129, 101-109 .
  • Schindlbacher, A., Zechmeister-Boltenstern, S., Jandl, R. (2009): Carbon losses due to soil warming: Do autotrophic and heterotrophic soil respiration respond equally? Global Change Biology, 15, 901-913.
  • Schindlbacher, A., Zechmeister-Boltenstern, S., Kitzler, B., Jandl, R. (2008): Experimental forest soil warming: response of heterotrophic and autotrophic soil respiration to a short-term 10°C temperature rise. Plant and Soil, 303, 323-330 .
  • Schindlbacher, A., Zechmeister-Boltenstern, S., Glatzel, G., Jandl, R. (2007): Winter soil respiration from an Austrian mountain forest. Agriculture and Forest Meteorology, 146, 205-215 .

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