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Platform history

The Tyrolean LTSER platform has its roots in more than a century of research into mountain ecology at the University of Innsbruck. As early as the late nineteenth century, Anton Kerner taught at the University of Innsbruck, as a classic scholar of plant geography and alpine botany (Gärtner 2004) as well as a pioneer of chemical ecology (Hartmann 2008). He studied the impact of geological, climate and biotic factors on plant distribution and survival. In addition, he carried out early experimental analyses with transplants from low altitude to high altitude in Tyrol. Kerner cultivated over 300 perennial and annual taxa from homogenous seed origin.

Anton Kerner was one of the first to document non-hereditary changes in organisms that are caused by the environment, making him a trailblazer for the concept of genotype and phenotype that later entered common usage (Ehrendorfer 2004).

In the early 1930s, Arthur Pisek and Engelbert Cartellieri began to study various functional plant groups and plant societies on the mountains around Innsbruck and were the first to systematically combine field studies with controlled environmental studies (Pisek 1971; Körner 2003). In the mid-twentieth century, they became the founders of a modern comparative and experimental ecology of alpine plants.

In the 1960s, and building on this long tradition at Innsbruck in experimental plant ecology, Walter Larcher introduced the ecosystem approach. He initiated and directed a broad mountain ecology research programme at the treeline on Mt. Patscherkofel near Innsbruck and in the nival zone in the Tyrolean Central Alps in the valleys between Stubai valley and Ötz valley (Larcher 1977a, b; Moser et al. 1977). This constituted a major first step towards today’s Tyrolean Alps LTSER Platform.

From the mid-1960s, extensive alpine research remained focused on Mt. Patscherkofel. Logistic and scientific support has been provided by the Mountain Research Station of the Botanical Institute at the University of Innsbruck as well as by the Alpine Timberline Research Station Patscherkofel (Klimahaus) of the Research and Training Centre for Forests, Natural Hazards and Landscape (BFW).

The University of Innsbruck, the Institute of Mountain Research of the ÖAW, the Federal Agency and Research Centre for Forests (BFW) in Innsbruck plus several other Tyrolean research institutions have been involved in building up the LTSER platform.