Alpine Research Station Furka (ALPFOR)
Given the accessibility of the alpine terrain around the Furka Pass, this is an ideal area for alpine research. Since 1991 researchers of the University of Basel (Institute of Botany) have conducted several major, largely Swiss Science Foundation fundet research projects. A substantial number of Diploma and Master students and doctoral candidates have received their degrees for works at the Furka. These works have strongly shaped our understanding of the alpine ecosystem, which contributed to a worldwide cited text book ‘Alpine plant Life’ (Ch. Körner, Springer Publishers, 1999 and 2003 editions, Georgian translation 2007, Chinese translation 2008). The cover of he book shows the North-slope of the Bidmer Plateau photographed from Furka Pass, and examplifying the topographic richness of alpine terrain.
Among the many facets of the research conducted at the Furka Pass the following topics received particular attention:
- The influence of elevated CO2 concentration on growth, productivity and water relations of alpine grassland and glacier forefield vegetation.
- The impact of nitrogen deposition, climatic warming and sheep trampling on alpine grassland.
- Microclimatology of alpine vegetation. Population biology and reproductive ecology of alpine plants.
- Molecular genetics of alpine plant populations (gen-ecology).
- The hydrological consequences of land use change.
Our long term activities aim at a functional understanding of alpine plant life. Overall our research shifted gradually from studying resource acquisition (e.g. photosynthesis) toward resource investment and questions of developement. As with treeline, sink activity seems to be the major determinant of growth. A common misconception associated with alpine plant life finds its expression in the use of the terms 'stress' and 'limitation'. See the critique in: Körner C (1998) Alpine plants: stressed or adapted? In: Press MC, Scholes JD, Barker MG (eds.) Physiological Plant Ecology. Blackwell Science , 297-311
The influence of photoperiod on growth and development in high elevation taxa (Ph.D. by Franziska Keller in cooperation with the Dept. of Geography, University of Fribourg). We tested, whether and which species are responsive to earlier snow melt. It appears there exists a suite of different sensitivities, suggesting biodiversity shifts. We also tested the influence of nutrient addition on high elevation pioneer plants and run a longer term project on the interactive effect on sheep tramplng, nitrogen deposition and warming as part of the Swiss National Project NFP 48.
A Europe-wide assessment of ground temperatures in alpine grassland is part of ALPNET (see associated organisations). The assessment provides a basis for comparing biodiversity in alpine biota from 69 to 37 degree of northern latitude. (Nagy et al. (2003) Ecological Studies, Vol. 167. 577 p. Springer, Berlin). A synthesis of research in functional ecology of alpine plants over the past 100 years was published in 1999.
An overview on publications, research projects and cooperations gives this document:
ALPFOR - Literature and Research
The latest publication gives an overview on the highly diverse hotspot of the Furkapass region. Besides 300 species of vascular plants, also algae, moss, lichen, fungi, beetles, flies, bumblebees, ichneumon flies, butterflies, birds and other vertebrates were found - in total more than 2000 species.
HOTSPOT FURKA - Biologische Vielfalt im Gebirge