Permafrost and its impacts on water resources and water ecology in high mountain areas

Permafrost is a widespread phenomenon in the Eastern Alps at elevations above 2500 m. In South Tyrol (Italy), about 440 km² of the total area are permafrost, in Austria about 2000 km². Temperature of mountain permafrost is often close to 0°C, which causes alpine permafrost to react sensitively to changes in air and surface temperature.  Slope destabilization and increased rock fall activity are well-known expressions of climate change induced impacts on mountain permafrost with major consequences on the construction and maintenance of infrastructure. High-alpine surface waters impacted by active rock glaciers may experience a strong change in chemical composition. Rising solute contents and heavy metal concentrations exceeding drinking water limits have been reported in the framework of previous projects. 

PERMAQUA investigates active rock glaciers and high alpine surface waters impacted by permafrost in North and South Tyrol, and feeds into the international monitoring of mountain permafrost. Results will support local stakeholders, decision makers and end-users.

Rock glaciar at Äußeres Hochebenkar and gauge with automated sampling device

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Project Leader: 
Funding Agencies: 
Interreg IV Italy-Austria
European Regional Development Fund
Project Duration: 
11/01/2011 to 10/31/2014