In addition to every year’s standard program the project has an extra budget to pursue special questions. Special projects can be in-depth studies within the standard plot, e.g. for additional organism groups or for a specific research question. On the other hand, this can also include projects completely independent of the standard program. However, it is important that the main objective, i.e. the study of our biodiversity inventory is reflected within the project.
Main aims or special projects are therefore to record biodiversity, to improve our understanding of the factors influencing biodiversity and finally, to raise awareness for all kinds of biodiversity issues.

Whinchat, corn crake and red-backed shrike – survey of bird life in extensively managed meadows and pastures
Biodiversity in the Latemar’s windthrow areas
Distribution of the brown marmorated stink bug and its parasitisation: a comparison of fruit growing and natural sites
The woodland brown butterfly in South Tyrol – phantom or reality?
eDNA: Investigation of soils in apple orchards using new methods
Review of measures to promote biodiversity as part of the Schneewinkel project

Whinchat, corn crake and red-backed shrike – survey of bird life in extensively managed meadows and pastures

Project description and goals: Agricultural practices have changed significantly in recent decades. Meadows are frequently cut earlier, more often and are also fertilised more intensely. This has a serious impact on biodiversity. For example, populations of bird species, that rely on extensively managed meadows and pastures, have either been decimated or have disappeared completely. The main objective of this project is to study the ecology and distribution of the particular species that are tied to extensively managed grasslands. At the same time, it is important to understand how future grassland use can be managed without threatening the existence of these species.

Methods: The study sites were selected on the basis of two criteria: on the one hand, known nesting points were used as a guide for possible recent breeding areas, on the other, potentially suitable areas were pre-selected based on landscape criteria. The surveys in this study mostly correspond with Biodiversity Monitoring South Tyrol’s standard programme. The ornithologists visit the research sites twice a year between April and July in the early morning, where, experts count all observed species, heard or seen and a distinction is made between those within and those outside a 100 m radius. In addition, playback-birdcalls are played to identify some rare bird species. In addition, surveys are carried out in the evenings to record nocturnal species (European nightjar, corn crake).

Partners: The project is carried out in collaboration with the Office for Nature (Aut. Prov. Bozen-Südtirol).

Contact: For further information, please contact Matteo Anderle, matteo.anderle@eurac.edu

Some bird species rely on extensively cultivated meadows and pastures. The intensification of the cultivation results in the decline of these species.

The Eurasian skylark breeds in meadows and fields. Its total number has been declining continuously since the 1980s.

Extensive meadows are cut and fertilised less. Therefore, the habitat of the birds living there is barely disturbed.

Red-backed shrikes are typical inhabitants of semi-open cultivated landscapes, characterized by numerous hedges and shrubbery.

Biodiversity in the Latemar’s windthrow areas

Project description and goals: In autumn 2018, storm Vaia decimated parts of the South Tyrolean woodland. A total of 6,000 hectares of forest, in 86 South Tyrolean municipalities, were destroyed because of the hurricane-like storm. The areas surrounding the Latemar, the municipalities of Deutschnofen and Welschnofen, were particularly affected. This project examines the biodiversity in the windfall areas west of the Karer Pass. We compare areas with different proportions of dead wood: those in which all dead trees have been removed with those in which dead trunks have remained. We also examine areas of the forest that were largely spared from the windthrow. The aim of the project is to understand how different animal and plant species react to a windthrow event and how they are affected by different management measures.

Methods: For each category (unaffected forest areas and cleared or uncleared areas affected by windthrow), five research locations were selected. When choosing the investigated organism groups, we favoured those that react to dead wood in particular (wood-living beetles, flat bugs). The species groups are representatively recorded, using standardised methods such as window traps, time-standardised hand catches. We also carry out parts of Biodiversity Monitoring South Tyrol’s standard programme (a survey of birds, bats, soil animals). Recently, we have also started to survey mice and other small mammals.

Partners: The project is carried out in collaboration with the Office for Forest Planning (Aut. Prov. Bozen-Südtirol) and the „Landesdomäne“.

Contact: For further information, please contact Andreas Hilpold, andreas.hilpold@eurac.edu

The areas surrounding the Latemar were particularly affected by the storm 'Vaia'.

We also carry out parts of Biodiversity Monitoring South Tyrol’s standard programme (a survey of birds, bats, soil animals).

We are comparing unaffected forest areas as well as cleared and uncleared windthrow areas.

We have also started to survey mice and other small mammals.

Distribution of the brown marmorated stink bug and its parasitisation: a comparison of fruit growing and natural sites

Project description and goals: For a few years now, the brown marmorated stink bug (Halyomorpha halys), originally from Asia, has been present in South Tyrol. Here, the bug causes great damage to apple cultivation: when eating, the bug feeds on apples, and causes deterioration to the fruit’s quality. A possible strategy to control the pest is the import of predators that parasitise the eggs of the brown marmorated stink bug. Various parasitoid wasp species are particularly suitable for this aim, especially the non-native samurai wasp (Trissolcus japonicus), and the native species Anastatus bifasciatus. These species lay their own eggs inside those of the eggs of brown marmorated stink bug. The growing wasp larvae then consume the bug eggs from the interior.
However, the release of non-native parasitoid wasps could have an impact on the native bug and wasp fauna.
The aim of this project is to understand which species occur in different locations and to also study the effects of the release of exotic predators.

Methods: We selected three orchards from the Biodiversity Monitoring South Tyrol project for examination. We chose only organically farmed areas in order to minimise the influence of pest management strategies. Close to each of the selected orchards, we chose natural sites, with no apples growing in the immediate vicinity. These natural locations have similar topographical conditions to the examined apple orchards in terms of sea level and exposition. In all the examination sites, we use various methods for the detection of the stink bugs and their parasitoids as visual inspections, whereby bug eggs and bugs are recorded. We also take samples with the use of beating and sweep nets to survey the presence of the bugs and their predators. In addition, we install malaise traps and painted bowls which are used to detect both bugs and various Hymenoptera.

Partners: The project is carried out in collaboration with Laimburg Research Centre.

Contact: For further information, please contact Lisa Obwegs, Lisa.Obwegs@eurac.edu

esamina 10 aree, tra la bassa Val Pusteria e l’alta Val Venosta.

The brown marmorated stink bug often feeds on apples.

Eggs of Halyomorpha halys.

Lisa Obwegs installing a malaise trap which is used to detect both bugs and various Hymenoptera.

The samurai wasp (Trissolcus japonicus) is an effective predator of the stink bug. © Laimburg

The woodland brown butterfly in South Tyrol – phantom or reality?

Project description and goals: The woodland brown (Lopinga achine) is a butterfly species endangered throughout Europe whose population is continuously declining. The species is an indicator of near-natural forests especially ones that are predominantly comprised of beech trees. The species is classified as “threatened” and is on South Tyrol’s Red List. So far, in our region the butterfly has only been observed on the Mendel massif. However, the last findings of the species were made twenty years ago.
With this project, we want to investigate the occurrence and distribution of the woodland brown in South Tyrol in order to understand more about the ecology of the species in our province and to develop a customised monitoring system for their conservation status. Another goal is to propose concrete measures for the protection of this species in South Tyrol. In addition, we generally want to improve our existing knowledge of butterfly biodiversity in the forests on the Mendel massif: as all butterflies occurring in the specific sites are surveyed.

Methods: Between June and July, classic butterfly surveys (the catching with a net, identifying and releasing adult butterflies) have been undertaken. This project focuses on locations that seem suitable for the woodland brown. In the first half of June, we inspected the area to select several examination locations. From those selected, a transect survey was undertaken, which methodically corresponds to that of Biodiversity Monitoring South Tyrol’s standard programme. The transect surveys of the selected locations were repeated on two further occasions, at the beginning and end of July. In addition to these transect surveys, non-standardised surveys on forest road edges and small forest clearings are also undertaken.

Partners:

Contact: For further information, please contact Elia Guariento, Elia.Guariento@eurac.edu

The woodland brown is an endangered butterfly species.

Carrying out a transect survey.

We also carry out non-standardised surveys on forest road edges and small forest clearings.

So far, in our region the butterfly has only been observed on the Mendel massif. However, the last findings of the species were made twenty years ago.

eDNA: Investigation of soils in apple orchards using new methods

Project description and goals: In recent years, the use of eDNA methods has become increasingly popular in ecological studies. eDNA stands for environmental DNA and is the DNA that is released into the environment by organisms. eDNA is used to detect the presence of different species in a specific location. This provides information about the current biodiversity and how it has changed over time. In this project we investigate the eDNA in the soil of intensively managed orchards in South Tyrol, focusing on fungi and bacteria. The aim of the project is to determine the most important factors that influence soil biodiversity.
In South Tyrol, the use of eDNA methods is relatively new. As such, the project has been forming the basis for the further application of these technologies in South Tyrol. In parallel to this pilot study, a working group with representatives from UniBZ, Eurac Research and the Nature Museum has been set up to support and promote the development of new eDNA projects.

Methods: For the project, we selected a total of 20 orchards between Schlanders/Silandro and Salurn/Salorno, from which the soil samples are taken. We then isolate the entire DNA from the samples and perform metabarcoding. Through the analysis of a short, specific part of the DNA, bacteria and fungi can usually be identified at the genus level. This gives us an overview of the diversity of microorganisms in the soil and an understanding of the complex network of interactions that exist between these organisms.

Partners: The project is carried out in collaboration with the Free University of Bozen

Contact: For further information, please contact Giulio Genova, Giulio.Genova@eurac.edu

In total, 20 apple orchards between Schlanders and Salurn are being surveyed.

Taking soil samples of the apple orchards examined.

The entire DNA from the soil samples is isolated and a metabarcoding is performed.

Giulio Genova in the lab. His aim is to determine the most important factors that influence soil biodiversity.

Review of measures to promote biodiversity as part of the Schneewinkel project

Project description and goals: In the “Schneewinkel”, an apple growing zone in Schlanders/Silandro, specific measures will be taken to promote biodiversity. To check the effectiveness of these measures, we survey the occurrence of birds, bats, butterflies and flying insects in this area. For this purpose, we investigate a total of eight points (four of them in the Schneewinkel core area and four outside the area) to understand whether the applied measures work.

Methods: The survey methods vary depending on the group to be examined. The bird survey began in late April and continued until around the beginning of June. We identified the birds primarily based on their singing: in the early morning hours, we survey the birds within a radius of 100 m for 10 minutes. We carried out three repetitions for each examination point.

To identify the bats, we mounted ultrasound recorders, so-called “batloggers”. These devices record the sounds of the bats that we use to classify species.

We study the butterflies on a total of three survey dates. The surveys take place between May and September only when weather conditions are suitable. We slowly walk a transect (a marked straight line) of 50 m and catch the butterflies nearby. These are then identified and released afterwards.

In addition to butterflies, we are also investigating the occurrence of other flying insects (especially bees, wasps and Diptera). To do so, we set traps for 24 hours on two dates. Bright yellow bowls filled with water serve as traps, which attract the insects in their search of flowers. We then identify the collected insects in the laboratory.

Partners: The project is carried out in collaboration with the Association of Val Venosta producers of fruit and vegetables, VI.P.

Contact: For further information, please contact Andreas Hilpold, andreas.hilpold@eurac.edu

We install color traps which attract insects.

“Batloggers” record the sounds of the bats and are used to identify species.

Pieridae are very common butterflies to the bottom of the Vinschgau valley. In the picture: small white.

The song thrush and the fieldfare are bird species typical of the bottom of the Vinschgau valley. In the picture: Song thrush.

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