The project MEDIALPS

The project MEDIALPS – Disentangling anthropogenic drivers of climate change impacts on alpine plant species investigates anthropogenic factors, including climate change, pollution and land-use, leading to changes in plant species composition on mountain summits, which are the subject of the long-term monitoring network GLORIA (Global Observation Research Initiative in Alpine Environments).

At the Institute for Interdisciplinary Mountain Research, we investigate the effects of micro-topographic relief on plant species distributions in alpine terrain. To this end, we compare selected sites from the GLORIA network on mountain summits in Alpine and Mediterranean mountains. Over the past two years we collected thousands of digital images from various mountain environments in Europe. Based on these images a huge dataset of 249 highly detailed dense point clouds at millimetre resolution was created to quantify the topographic effects on alpine vegetation. We employed state-of-the-art photogrammetry workflows to compute dense point clouds, making use of the high performance cluster of the University of Innsbruck. For each point cloud topographic parameters, such as slope and aspect, were computed. Shadows and vegetation were automatically classified and the potential solar irradiation derived for characterizing each summit site.

To date, our workflow and progress were presented at the Perth III: Mountains of Our Future Earth conference, Scotland, and at the ISPRS Congress 2016 in Prague, Czech Republic. Further results will be presented at the EGU 2017 conference in Vienna.

This work has been funded by the Earth System Sciences Program of the Austrian Academy of Sciences. The computational efforts have been achieved (in part) using the HPC infrastructure LEO of the University of Innsbruck.


Niederheiser, R., Rutzinger, M., Lamprecht, A., Steinbauer, K. & Winkler, M. (2016): Mapping alpine vegetation location properties by dense matching. In: The International Archives of the Photogrammetry, Remote Sensing and Spatial Information Sciences. Prague, Czech Republic Vol. XLI-B5, pp. 881-886.