The Institute for Interdisciplinary Mountain Research (IGF) of the Austrian Academy of Sciences investigates the regional manifestation of Global Change (climate change and globalization) in mountain regions. This means structures and processes in natural and cultural spaces in the past, present and future. Current social challenges include sustainable development, globalization and climate change, alongside related measures of adaptation and steering.
Mountains are found in all climate zones, from the tropics to the polar regions. Their prominent topography and the condensed succession of climates along an altitudinal gradient mean that many global phenomena can be particularly well observed here. The Alps, as the best investigated mountain region in the world, take up a special position in basic research because of the high density of data and the long history of research, in which the Austrian Academy of Sciences has played an important part. The process knowledge gained in the Alps is useful for the development of models for other mountain regions and for regionally comparable global investigations.
In the research undertaken at the IGF, a particularly wide range of methods from many different disciplines comes into operation and is developed further. Remote-sensing methods and statistical regional analysis use extensive spatio-temporal data for analysing and monitoring relevant processes. Monitoring of biotic changes in alpine ecosystems and their biodiversity is carried out at numerous monitoring stations within the GLORIA network. Abiotic-physical changes, esp. those related to climate, are tackled with glaciological, hydrological and geophysical methods. Social-scientific standard methods are enhanced by ‘digital humanities’, for instance, with data bases to map ecosystem services. An essential result of these long-term projects are data sets published in data bases and in interactive WebGIS applications. In this way, hypothesis-led empirical evidence is transformed into process models and in turn condensed into numerical models and social-scientific theories.
The Institute is keen to form an institutional bridgehead of Austrian vis-à-vis international mountain research as a member of various international networks, in some of them as coordinator, e.g. GLORIA, ISCAR, ISCAR-P, GTN-G, PECSRL, World Glacier Monitoring Service (WGMS).
In parallel with innovative approaches in basic research, the IGF of the Austrian Academy of Sciences also pursues long-term research, both in climate impact research and in the social sciences. Other state research institutions or universities are limited in their scope for engaging in such work. The IGF thus fills a research gap, esp. in the interdisciplinary approach to future-oriented research issues that is indispensable for planning adaptation measures in mountain regions.