Alpine systems

SNSB research focuses on the understanding of alpine systems, the change and interaction of bio- and geodiversity in this natural area, but also its settlement history and anthropogenic influence.

Alpine geosystems

Scientists of the Mineralogische Staatssammlung Munich study rocks and deposits. They focus on mineral formations and associations as well as the question of provenance analysis of gold artifacts (e.g. from Spain, Austria, Turkey). Today, gold deposits are important sources of information for the study of geodiversity and to address archaeological and historical questions.

Another research area of the SNSB in the field of alpine orogeny, the last process of mountain building in Earth’s history, is the Turkish Taurides. So-called ophiolites, rocks that formed the seafloor between the European and African continents, are being studied.

“Alpine geosystems” combine the two main research areas “Alpine systems” and “Changing biospere” at the SNSB. The former marine sediments folded up in the Alps and thus accessible at the Earth’s surface are important archives for the study of living environments and environmental conditions in the geological past.

Earlier life forms in the Alpine region

Scientists of the Bavarian State Collection of Paleontology and Geology provide answers to questions about the diversity of ecosystems in the early Mesozoic and the mass extinction at the end of the Triassic and its impact on the diversity of fauna and flora. Various long-term research projects focus on the paleodiversity of the Upper Triassic Cassian Formation in the Italian Dolomites as well as the Late Triassic rock sequences in the Bavarian and Austrian Alps.

Another focus is on the floras of the Alpine region and the Germanic Zechstein Basin of Upper Permian age.

The main regions of Bavarian mammal fossil finds are the Northern Alpine Foreland and Molasse Basin as well as the Swabian-Franconian Jurassic, all influenced by the Alpine orogeny. Southern Bavarian mammal fossils form a substantial part of the record of Central European mammal history.

The Bavarian fossilsites offer unique insights into evolution.

Flora of the Alps

The Alps create the geological and climatic conditions for an enormous range of plant communities. Today, the Alps, together with the upland and lowland moors at various altitudes, are home to an estimated 4,500 species of higher plants. The Alpine region of Bavaria is unique and has a particularly species-rich flora.

The Bavarian State Collection for Botany in Munich is compiling a new Flora of Bavaria: for this purpose, all existing floristic data are being brought together and made accessible online by the SNSB IT Center. At the Botanical Garden München-Nymphenburg, research also focuses on the flora of alpine mountains, including the Alps, the Himalayas and the Caucasus.

The Alpine Garden Schachen (1860m, more than 1,000 plant species) as a branch of the Botanical Garden München-Nymphenburg offers ideal conditions for phenological and climatic studies and is to become more important as a research location (also for zoological questions) in the future.

Fauna of the Alps

The faunas of Alpine regions provide data particularly for studies on biodiversity dynamics. Due to the strongly fluctuating altitudinal gradients and the dramatically heterogeneous geo and climate dynamics of the past millennia, they serve as a natural experiment for research.

DNA data sets of about 24,000 (of a total of about 36,000) recorded species were produced during the large-scale campaign “Barcoding Fauna Bavarica”. The campaign created solid identification tools for many taxa and their life stages for the first time. Together with colleagues from Austria and Switzerland, the existing Bavarian database is to be expanded specifically for the Alpine region. Through increased digitisation of the Alpine collections, we expect to be able to make verifiable statements on the biological effects of climate change.

Alpine environment as human habitat

The SNSB’s extensive anthropological and archaeozoological collections form the basis for research into the colonisation of alpine systems by humans. Despite the geographical barrier formed by the Alps, the inhabitants of the Bavarian foothills of the Alps were always in exchange with population groups of the inner and southern Alpine habitat and in some cases maintained far-reaching contacts in other regions.

In alpine habitats, regional cultural phenomena occurred at all times that do not correspond to the general picture. The Munich State Collection of Anthropology documents and interprets these bio-cultural manifestations in close cooperation with archaeological sciences. In this way, it contributes to the expansion of our understanding of history and culture