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Schirpke U.,European Academy Bolzano Bozen | Tasser E.,Institute for Alpine Environment | Tappeiner U.,University of Innsbruck
Landscape and Urban Planning | Year: 2013

Scenic beauty of mountain landscapes contributes to human well-being. Valuation of natural scenery and specific landscape properties by perception studies is complex and time-consuming. Sophisticated spatial analysis tools can support the assessment of scenic beauty by quantitative methods. We implemented an innovative GIS-based modeling approach for mountain regions which combines objective methods with perception-based methods. Based on viewpoints, spatial patterns of visible landscape were analyzed by means of landscape metrics. A set of 60 landscape metrics were reduced by principal component analysis (PCA) to 11 components explaining 93% of the variance. The components were related to perceived scenic beauty values found through a perception study via stepwise regression analysis. We found that two components, shape complexity and landscape diversity, are positively related to visual quality (R2=0.72). In the Central Alps, especially areas above the tree line are characterized by high scenic beauty. Abandonment of agriculturally used areas implies a loss of scenic beauty, mainly in the valley bottom and in the subalpine forest belt, as a result of urban sprawl and natural reforestation. The GIS-based model offers a valid instrument for scenic beauty assessments of mountain regions as a basis for policy making and landscape planning. © 2012 Elsevier B.V.

Pelorosso R.,University of Tuscia | Della Chiesa S.,Institute for Alpine Environment | Della Chiesa S.,University of Innsbruck | Tappeiner U.,Institute for Alpine Environment | And 3 more authors.
Landscape and Urban Planning | Year: 2011

The semi-natural landscapes of Mediterranean mountains underwent a remarkable land abandonment in the past decades. These large perturbation-dependent landscapes then evolved into new meta-stable states to balance human pressures and natural components with a general pattern homogenisation and several consequences on landscape services. These areas need effective management strategies to conserve a wide functionality allowing, at the same time, the sustainable development of population. Lack of resources and achievable restoration goals often hamper these objectives to be reached.In this paper, a study of pattern change is proposed using five landscape metrics and a stability analysis of features derived from land cover maps in order to investigate their magnitude and rate of change in a mountain municipality of central Italy between two separate time periods (1954-1985 and 1985-1999). A Kappa statistic (Kappa Index of Agreement), a Markov chain model and a Kruskal-Wallis test were employed. The results showed that shape and size of woodlands, open areas and buildings patches were significantly changed during the second period (1985-1999), with a concurrent abrupt reduction in the rate of change for each land cover, confirming that a new meta-stable state of equilibrium between human land use and natural processes of secondary succession was being approached.A discussion of management strategies for such equilibrium is therefore proposed to contribute to the development of effective conservation actions for the semi-natural landscapes of Mediterranean Basin. The presented approach aims to stimulate the inclusion of stability analysis into the planning and management of abandoned landscapes. © 2011 Elsevier B.V.

Schirpke U.,Institute for Alpine Environment | Leitinger G.,University of Innsbruck | Tasser E.,Institute for Alpine Environment | Schermer M.,University of Innsbruck | And 3 more authors.
International Journal of Biodiversity Science, Ecosystems Services and Management | Year: 2013

In mountain regions, ecosystem services provision is strongly linked to land use, topography and climate, where impacts can be expected under global change. For our study site in the Austrian Alps, we examined the relationship between agricultural activities and multiple ecosystem services on landscape scale from past to future. Modelling of future land-use patterns was based on stakeholder workshops considering different socio-economic and climate scenarios. In the past, land-use intensity was reduced resulting in less forage provision but better regulating services. Future scenarios predict contrasting developments; under conditions of global change, farmers shift the focus of their activities towards tourism, but in times of global economic crisis farming becomes more important again. Developing the local economy facilitates new markets for agricultural products, but projected drought periods will cause an abandonment of farmland. While forest regeneration is valuable for regulating services, it reduces the aesthetic value. Both regulating and cultural services decrease when forage provision is optimized. To ensure multiple ecosystem service provision, agricultural management should be related to ecosystem services and included into land-use policies and agricultural incentives. © 2013 Copyright Taylor and Francis Group, LLC.

Pasolli L.,Institute for Applied Remote Sensing | Notarnicola C.,Institute for Applied Remote Sensing | Bertoldi G.,Institute for Alpine Environment | Della Chiesa S.,Institute for Alpine Environment | And 5 more authors.
European Journal of Soil Science | Year: 2014

Summary: This paper presents the results of a two-year experiment carried out in mountain areas on soil moisture retrieval from remotely sensed images. In particular, fully polarimetric synthetic aperture radar (SAR) RADARSAT and single polarization ASAR images were used. During acquisitions of SAR over the test area in Alto Adige, Südtirol region, northern Italy, extensive field measurements were carried out to characterize the area in terms of soil moisture variability, vegetation cover and soil properties. The area is equipped with 17 meteorological stations that also provide information on soil moisture on an hourly basis. To deal with the process of soil moisture retrieval from SAR images in this challenging environment, an advanced algorithm based on the support vector regression (SVR) technique and the integration of ancillary data were successfully proposed. The selected method was also combined with an innovative multi-objective strategy for model selection. The results indicate that the use of polarimetric features such as horizontal-horizontal polarization (HH) and horizontal-vertical polarization (HV) channels improves the estimation of SMC in the mountain area investigated, in particular because the HV channel contributes to disentangling the effect of vegetation on the radar signal. The root mean square error (RMSE) indicates accuracy of retrieval for soil moisture values of around 5%, which is well within the requirements for estimating soil moisture from remotely sensed data. This work was carried out with the main aim of demonstrating the feasibility of soil moisture retrieval in mountain areas with high-resolution images in view of the upcoming Sentinel 1 mission. © 2014 British Society of Soil Science.

Bertoldi G.,Institute for Alpine Environment | Della Chiesa S.,Institute for Alpine Environment | Della Chiesa S.,University of Innsbruck | Notarnicola C.,Institute for Applied Remote Sensing | And 4 more authors.
Journal of Hydrology | Year: 2014

This paper analyzes the spatial patterns of surface soil moisture of alpine meadows and pastures in the Matsch/Mazia Valley in the Italian Alps by comparing estimations from three different sources of information: (I) RADARSAT 2 synthetic aperture radar (SAR) images; (II) simulations by using the GEOtop hydrological model and (III) ground observations, derived from a network of fixed stations and field campaigns with mobile devices. The aim of this paper is to assess the added value of RADARSAT 2 products with respect to a distributed hydrological model in capturing soil moisture patterns in mountain areas, which is a challenging environment with a high degree of spatial variability. Moreover, the physical controls of the observed soil moisture patterns are analyzed by using the hydrological model. Results show that the model, once calibrated for soil and vegetation parameters, predicts the plot-scale temporal dynamic in station locations and the spatial averages with sufficient accuracy. However, the model output shows lower spatial variability with respect to the ground surveys, with a limited capability of reproducing moist areas in irrigated meadows. Differences arise due to difficulties in knowing soil model parameters and irrigation amounts with accurate spatial detail. RADARSAT 2 soil moisture maps well reproduce the spatial ground surveys, as well as over-irrigated meadows. However, SAR products are limited to slopes with a favorable viewing angle, to bare soil or to grassland areas. Moreover, the signal penetration depth is restricted to the soil surface layer. The major control on RADARSAT 2 patterns is land use. Irrigated meadows in the bottom of the valley have moister conditions, with respect to pastures along the upper hillslopes. In this case, model simulations suggest that differences in soil type could have a relevant impact on soil moisture estimation. A secondary control is topography, with increased moisture in convergent locations with a high topographic wetness index. Results suggest that the capability of RADARSAT 2 products to reproduce small-scale (20. m pixels size) surface soil moisture patterns in mountain grassland areas could complement the ability of the hydrological model to predict variations of soil moisture continuously in space and time. Therefore, RADARSAT 2 products can give useful information to improve spatial parameterization and validation of distributed hydrological models in mountain grassland areas, also in the perspective of implementing data integration procedures for operational soil moisture monitoring. © 2014 Elsevier B.V.

Scolozzi R.,University of Minho | Schirpke U.,Institute for Alpine Environment | Detassis C.,IASMA Fondazione Edmund Machinery | Abdullah S.,Fondazione Eni Enrico Mattei | And 2 more authors.
Landscape Research | Year: 2015

Alpine environments are increasingly appreciated by nature-based tourism, notwithstanding recent economic crises. To benefit from this and maintain the attractiveness of a tourist destination, it is important to recognise the values of landscapes. We developed and tested a qualitative spatial valuation methodology, integrating existing quantitative survey methods, to support destination management and landscape planning at the local level. Data were collected through semi-structured interviews and a mapping exercise at a nature-based tourism destination in northern Italy. In identifying and mapping tourists’ perceived landscape values and related threats, we also considered tourist profiles, experiences and preferences. The results indicated three tourist types (active seniors, families and sportive visitors). They identified five different landscape values (scenic, outdoor activity, aesthetic, historical-cultural and tranquillity) and seven categories of threats (urbanisation, lack of maintenance, congestion, visual and/or acoustic disturbance, pollution, overuse, and traffic). The maps show diverse ‘tourism landscapes’ and provide useful insights into sites with high value or with potential conflict between rival uses, which can effectively ground proposals for the management of valued sites and support local spatial planning to maintain perceived landscape values. © 2014, Landscape Research Group Ltd.

Haida C.,alpS GmbH | Haida C.,University of Innsbruck | Rudisser J.,University of Innsbruck | Tappeiner U.,University of Innsbruck | Tappeiner U.,Institute for Alpine Environment
Regional Environmental Change | Year: 2015

Facing the challenges of global and regional changes, society urgently needs applicable and broadly accepted tools to effectively manage and protect ecosystem services (ES). This requires knowing which ES are perceived as important. We asked decision-makers from different thematic backgrounds to rank 25 ES on the basis of their importance for society. To test whether perceptions are varying across regions, we surveyed three Alpine regions in Austria and Italy. The ranking of importance showed a high variability amongst experts but was not influenced by region or thematic background. ES that satisfy physiological needs (‘fresh water’, ‘food’, ‘air quality regulation’) were indicated as most important. ES that relate to safety and security needs were ranked in the middle field, whereas cultural ES were perceived as less important. We used principal component analysis (PCA) to identify ES bundles based on perception of importance. In order to investigate whether research intensity follows the perceived importance, we related the interviews with a comprehensive literature review. ‘Global climate regulation’, ‘food’, ‘biodiversity’, ‘fresh water’ and ‘water quality’ were studied most often. Although ‘habitat’, ‘energy’, ‘primary production’, ‘tourism’, ‘water cycle’, and ‘local climate regulation’ were ranked as important by decision-makers, they did not receive corresponding research attention. We conclude that more interaction between research and stakeholders is needed to promote a broader application and understanding of the ES concept in practice. The use of ES bundles could help to manage its inherent complexity and facilitate its application. © 2015 Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg

Pellegrino D.,University of Rome La Sapienza | Schirpke U.,Institute for Alpine Environment | Marino D.,University of Molise
Journal of Environmental Planning and Management | Year: 2016

In Europe, biodiversity conservation relies on the Natura 2000 network. However, it is often difficult to ensure the favourable conservation status of species and habitats due to scarce financial resources. Therefore, we examined the current management strategies and conditions of three Italian Natura 2000 sites based on a questionnaire and stakeholder meetings. Additionally, we qualitatively assessed the potential of ecosystem services provision. Then an A'WOT analysis was carried out to identify and highlight internal and external factors affecting natural and semi-natural ecosystems and the socio-economic context, aiming to propose new instruments and approaches for effective management. The analysis revealed opportunities for developing tourism and the high potential of regulating services, whereas the bureaucratic burden and a lack of funding threaten the attainment of biodiversity conservation goals. Thus, we propose that payments for ecosystem services should be considered to support the effective management of Natura 2000 sites. © 2016 University of Newcastle upon Tyne

Penna D.,Free University of Bozen Bolzano | Engel M.,Free University of Bozen Bolzano | Engel M.,Institute for Alpine Environment | Mao L.,University of Santiago de Chile | And 3 more authors.
Hydrology and Earth System Sciences | Year: 2015

Snow-dominated and glacierized catchments are important sources of fresh water for biological communities and for populations living in mountain valleys. Gaining a better understanding of the runoff origin and of the hydrological interactions between meltwater, streamflow and groundwater is critical for natural risk assessment and mitigation as well as for effective water resource management in mountain regions. This study is based on the use of stable isotopes of water and electrical conductivity as tracers to identify the water sources for runoff and groundwater and their seasonal variability in a glacierized catchment in the Italian Alps. Samples were collected from rainfall, snow, snowmelt, ice melt, spring and stream water (from the main stream at different locations and from selected tributaries) in 2011, 2012 and 2013. The tracer-based mixing analysis revealed that, overall, snowmelt and glacier melt were the most important end-members for stream runoff during late spring, summer and early fall. The temporal variability of the tracer concentration suggested that stream water was dominated by snowmelt at the beginning of the melting season (May-June), by a mixture of snowmelt and glacier melt during mid-summer (July-early August), and by glacier melt during the end of the summer (end of August-September). The same seasonal pattern observed in streamflow was also evident for groundwater, with the highest electrical conductivity and least negative isotopic values found during cold or relatively less warm periods, when the melt of snowpack and ice was limited. Particularly, the application of a two-component mixing model to data from different springs showed that the snowmelt contribution to groundwater recharge varied between 21% (±3%) and 93% (±1%) over the season, and the overall contribution during the three study years ranged between 58% (±24%) and 72% (±19%). These results provided new insights into the isotopic characterization of the study catchment presenting further understanding of the spatio-temporal variability of the main water sources contributing to runoff. © Author(s) 2014.

Mao L.,University of Santiago de Chile | Dell'Agnese A.,Free University of Bozen Bolzano | Huincache C.,University of Santiago de Chile | Penna D.,Free University of Bozen Bolzano | And 6 more authors.
Earth Surface Processes and Landforms | Year: 2014

Sediment transport during flood events often reveals hysteretic patterns because flow discharge can peak before (counterclockwise hysteresis) or after (clockwise hysteresis) the peak of bedload. Hysteresis in sediment transport has been used in the literature to infer the degree of sediment availability. Counterclockwise and clockwise hysteresis have been in fact interpreted as limited and unlimited sediment supply conditions, respectively. Hysteresis has been mainly explored for the case of suspended sediment transport, but it was rarely reported for bedload transport in mountain streams. This work focuses on the temporal variability of bedload transport in an alpine catchment (Saldur basin, 18.6 km2, Italian Alps) where bedload transport was monitored by means of an acoustic pipe sensor which detects the acoustic vibrations induced by particles hitting a 0.5m-long steel pipe. Runoff dynamics are dominated by snowmelt in late spring/early summer, mostly by glacier melt in late summer/early autumn, and by a combination of the snow and glacier melt in mid-summer. The results indicate that hysteretic patterns during daily discharge fluctuations are predominantly clockwise during the snowmelt period, likely due to the ready availability of unpacked sediments within the channel or through bank erosion in the lower part of the basin. On the contrary, counterclockwise hysteresis tend to be more frequent during late glacier melting period, possibly due to the time lag needed for sediment provided by the glacial and peri-glacial area to be transported to the monitoring section. However, intense rainfall events occurring during the glacier melt period generated predominantly clockwise hysteresis, thus indicating the activation of different sediment sources. These results indicate that runoff generation processes play a crucial role on sediment supply and temporal availability in mountain streams. © 2014 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.

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