The LTSER research platform “Tyrolean Alps” (TA) reaches south to the border of the federal provinces of Tyrol, extending in the east from Innsbruck to the Wipp valley, while its northern and western boundaries are formed by the valley of the river Inn and the municipal borders around Mount Patscherkofel. The total area is 3.7 million hectares covering more than 90 municipalities, with a 3,200 m altitudinal span from 550 m in the Inn valley at Innsbruck to 3,750 m at the Wildspitze summit. Due to the intricate structure and the feature of extreme living conditions of mountain habitats the Tyrolean Alps show up highly diverse landscapes and biology, providing various ecosystem services to people, such as water, fresh air, timber, carbon storage, protection from natural hazards, energy, and recreation. However, the region also suffers from severe impacts of direct socioeconomic activities, such as winter and summer tourism, hydropower generation, agriculture and changes in land use, transport, settlement etc. Within this area, dominated by high mountains and their sensitive ecosystems, 9 LTER sites (some of them comprising several habitat types) are embedded, including two lakes, grasslands at different altitudes, a treeline site, a glacier foreland, and several glaciers.
These sites span a vast range in altitude (1,000 – 3,450 m) and climate. Mean annual temperature and precipitation of the terrestrial sites covering a range of more than 5.5°C and 900 mm, respectively, and for the similarly structured grassland ecosystems of 3.6° and 570 mm, respectively. LTER has a long tradition within this region, whereas socio-ecological and socioeconomic studies have been much less undertaken. An example of an LTSER approach has been undertaken in the Stubai valley with the intention to analyse the interaction of society with nature, their cumulative effects, and to assess ecosystem and landscape services for the whole valley. All three priority research themes identified by the White Paper „Next generation LTER“ in Austria (Mirtl et al. 2010) should and will likely be key elements of future process-oriented ecosystem research activities in the TA, including (1) regulation of primary production, removal and accumulation of dead organic material in terrestrial and aquatic ecosystems, taking particular account for the problem posed by greenhouse gases, (2) recycling and transformation of carbon and other nutrients in natural and disturbed ecosystems, (3) impact of spatial-temporal patterns and the intensity of disturbances (including weather extremes) upon the stability of ecosystems and (4) human impact on ecosystems as well as supply and demand of ecosystem services on a landscape scale.