MALWA – Monitoring of high ALtitude running WAters

Project description and objectives: The Alps, also known as “The European water tower”, are one of Europe’s main water sources. Nevertheless, the impact of climate change is already deeply transforming the ecology of this sensitive environment. Streams that originate from glaciers, rock glaciers and slopes are typically cold stream types and often exhibit a quite unique faunal biodiversity, especially regarding benthic macroinvertebrates. Moreover, some of these habitats (e.g., rock glaciers streams) may act as climate refugia in a scenario of increasing air and water temperatures and decreased glacial surfaces. The MALWA project will investigate the current and future dynamics of these habitats and the role they could play as climate refugia in the future. To this end, the habitats will be studied in detail in terms of their water chemistry in addition to faunistic sampling.

Research Area: South Tyrol, Vinschgau side valleys
Five sub-catchments, each covering all three stream typologies (glaciers, rock glaciers, slopes) were chosen as our research areas: the valleys Schnals/Senales, Matsch/Mazia, Sulden/Solda and Martell/Martello. The sampling points were chosen in close collaboration with our partners Muse & UniBZ.

Methods: In total, we sampled 15 streams, applying a methodological approach that closely resembled the one used for the main BMS-Water monitoring campaign: we collected benthic macroinvertebrates with a 100 µm kick-net sampler on different substrates in the stream. The Identification of the organisms to species level is performed by Valeria Lencioni and her team at Muse. Moreover, we measured water chemical parameters in the field and in the lab in close collaboration with UniBZ.

Partners: The limnological group of Valeria Lencioni at Muse Trento and Stefano Brighenti at UNIBZ.

Contact:  Contact persons for further information are Alberto Scotti and Magdalena Vanek