Colloquium of the Platform Biodiversity: Impact of the Vaia windthrow on biodiversity

In autumn 2018, parts of South Tyrolean forests were severely affected by a major storm event called Vaia. In total, 6,000 hectares of forest in 86 South Tyrolean municipalities were affected by the hurricane-like storm. The area around Latemar was particularly affected, with enormous economic losses in some cases.

But how do animal and plant species react to such a wind event? To find out, the scientists of the Biodiversity Monitoring South Tyrol 2020 carried out some special investigations in the Latemar area. Both windthrow areas and intact forest areas were examined and compared with each other. Various groups of insects were surveyed, including wood-dwelling beetle species that depend on deadwood and are therefore of particular importance for forest ecosystems. The occurrence of vascular plants and mosses as well as bats, birds and small mammals was also surveyed. The surveys showed that light-loving species, such as butterflies and grasshoppers, benefited from the opening of the forest, while typical forest species partly declined.

The lecture presents the results of the study and also discusses the importance of natural damage events for forest biodiversity: while such natural events are negative for us humans, they also harbour many positive effects for nature.

Chiara Paniccia, researcher at Eurac Research, is an expert on mammals and focuses on the impact of land use changes in forest areas. Michael Steinwandter, researcher at Eurac Research, is an expert on soil fauna and is particularly interested in studying soil fauna at high altitudes. Andreas Hilpold, Senior Researcher, is a trained botanist and has been coordinating the Biodiversity Monitoring South Tyrol at Eurac since 2019.

The colloquium will take place at 6 p.m. Wednesday, June 14th, at the Museum of Nature South Tyrol in Italian and German language. Admission is free. Online registration is required.

The event can also be followed online on the Museum’s YouTube channel.