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Helmholtz Research School
Mechanisms and Interactions of Climate Change in Mountain Regions

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Research Areas

MICMoR scientists cover a broad spectrum of research areas and expertise in Climate-Earth System Science. The figure below shows the attempt to map the foci of MICMoR scientists’ research into the Atmosphere-Biosphere-Pedo-/Hydrosphere ternary graph and illustrates the breadth of scope and the compartment crossing collaboration potential of the MICMoR group.

The scientists mutually benefit from each other's scientific expertise and direct access to primary in-situ observations, laboratory analyses, as well as multi-sensor and multi-parameter remote sensing, for the development and validation of detailed process models or integrated Climate-Earth-System models.



A number of lead questions in MICMoR research will be carried out, mostly as doctoral thesis work. They strive to be collaborative and interdisciplinary, involving several MICMoR scientists and partners. Consequently, every project directed at such interactions combines aspects of Atmosphere- Biosphere- Pedo-/Hydrosphere research with varying emphases, and may expand its regional scope by using remote sensing and modelling methods.

Examples of lead questions in MICMoR research and potential doctoral thesis topics include:

What are the dominant impacts of climate change in mountain regions on compartment-crossing exchanges of energy, water, and greenhouse-gases?

  • Quantification of greenhouse gas and energy fluxes between bio-, pedo- and atmosphere - how robust are existing methods to measure and model exchange fluxes in mountain regions?
  • Sensitivity of biogenic greenhouse gas emissions to climate change: will the microbial communities driving N- and C-compound transformations be able to conserve their functional biodiversity?
  • Stable (C-, N-, O-) isotope methods to separate biotic and abiotic causes of seasonal and interannual variability of bio-geo-chemical cycling in mountain ecosystems

Can multisensoral and multiparametric remote sensing improve the assessment of land surface-atmosphere interactions up to regional scales in alpine environments?

  • Regionalization of water and carbon fluxes by integrating mechanistic modelling with assimilation of hyper spectral, thermal and microwave remote sensing
  • Assessment of the spatial heterogeneity of vegetation dynamics in mountainous catchments using hyperspectral /multi-scale remote sensing methods
  • Development of combined methods of passive remote sensing and synthetic aperture radar (SAR)-interferometry to detect snow- and cloud-properties at high resolution over a defined region in the Alps. 

How does the topographic and land-use structure in mountain areas affect the spatial and temporal scales of climate and water cycle variability?

  • The interlinked water budget and energy partitioning of a topographically complex pre-alpine catchment under observed and expected future climate conditions: the fusion of TERENO data with regional climate modelling
  • Determination of high resolution precipitation fields in mountainous terrain by geo-statistical combination of station-, radar-, and microwave link-data and regional atmospheric model results
  • Stable isotope based hydrological process analysis in mountainous catchments using links to atmospheric circulation patterns and extreme precipitation/flooding events

How does climate change affect biodiversity and ecosystem functioning in mountain regions?

  • How stable is the functioning and greenhouse gas emission potential of rhizospheric soil microorganisms in interactions with plants stressed by drought/heat or flooding events?
  • Sensitivity and adaptability of biodiversity and ecosystem function to climate change in mountain regions – observation, experimentation and modelling
  • Determination of topographical gradients of phenology and their sensitivity to climatic parameters