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In the Central Alps the treeline is formed by the European larch (Larix decidua Mill.) and the Swiss pine (Pinus cembra L.), shaping the alpine plant community Larici-Cembretum. Currently, alpine pastures, which are increasingly abandoned in the European Alps, are colonised, after a phase of shrub encroachment, by the European larch, while a Swiss pine forest will establish once the undergrowth becomes too dense for larch trees. Former studies on tree growth rates indicate that the European larch will react positively to increasing temperatures at the treeline and will grow faster in the future.
The Swiss pine has in general slower growth rates and will likely be less affected by higher temperatures. Thus, there might be a change from Swiss pine to European larch forests at the tree line.
This change in the dominating tree species might have profound impacts on the soil macro-invertebrate community, particularly due to differing chemical and physical compositions of larch and pine needle litter. To investigate potential effects of this change, we took soil core and litter samples and further installed pitfall traps in pure European larch and Swiss pine forests, as well as in mixed forests.
We found no explicit differences in species composition between forests, presumably due to highly variable site and environmental parameters between and within forest types. The larch forests showed the highest number of taxa in general and the highest number of taxa found exclusively in this habitat. The pine forests were inhabited by the highest number of characteristic taxa while mixed forests harboured the most stable and consistent soil macro-invertebrate community.
Biodiversity Day 2018 in Weißbrunn, Ulten Valley (municipality of Ultimo, South
The 19th Biodiversity Day in South Tyrol was held in the municipality of Ulten/Ultimo.
A total of 886 taxa were found.
Comparison of historical and recent distribution of Chazara briseis and Zygaenidae (Lepidoptera) in the upper Vinschgau valley (South Tyrol, Italy) shows a total disappearance of Zygaenidae in areas close to the valley bottom. From 2015 until 2018 a detailed survey took place about the occurrence and the local distribution of the butterfly Chazara briseis (Linnaeus, 1764) (Nymphalidae, Satyrinae), widely threatened and partly extinct in Europe, and all species of forester and burnet moths (Zygaenidae, Procridinae and Zygaeninae) in the territory of the community of Mals (Italy, Südtirol/ Alto Adige, Vinschgau/Val Venosta). 143 localities were examined. The current distribution data are compared with historical data. C. briseis was found in very good metapopulations and a significant decrease of neither single meta-populations nor of the abundance of the butterflies could be observed in comparison with historical data. The population of Mals represents one of the most important strongholds of this endangered butterfly in Europe. During the project, 15 species of Zygaenidae were found, a family of Lepidoptera that is well-known for its high sensitivity against poisons in the air.
Most Zygaenidae occur in Mals in well-established populations, but only in the higher parts and in the side valleys where no intensively sprayed fruit monocultures occur. The valley bottom and the lower parts of the slopes are currently free of Zygaenidae. In historical times also the valley hosted well-established populations. The compiled data indicate that this might be an effect of wind-transported pesticides into the currently Zygaenidae-free localities. The current situation is described and all examined localities are also photo-documented. The most important pictures are published in this paper as a base for later studies to recognise environmental changes in the future. All species are figured, and their distribution is discussed and shown on maps.