Alpine plant ecology


Our long term activities aim at a functional understanding of alpine plant life. Overall our research shifted gradually from studying resource acquisition (e.g. photosynthesis) toward resource investment and questions of developement. As with treeline, sink activity seems to be the major determinant of growth. A common misconception associated with alpine plant life finds its expression in the use of the terms 'stress' and 'limitation'. See the critique in:
Körner C (1998) Alpine plants: stressed or adapted? In: Press MC, Scholes JD, Barker MG (eds.) Physiological Plant Ecology. Blackwell Science , 297-311


Examples of Publications
  • Hiltbrunner E, Arnaiz J, Körner C (2021) Biomass allocation and seasonal non-structural carbohydrate dynamics do not explain the success of all forbs in short alpine grassland. Oecologia 197:1063–1077,
  • Körner C, Hiltbrunner E (2021) Why is the alpine flora comparatively robust against climatic warming? Diversity 13, 383,
  • Möhl P, Hiltbrunner E, Körner C (2020) Halving sunlight reveals no carbon limitation of aboveground biomass production in alpine grassland. Global Change Biol DOI: 10.1111/gcb.14949
  • Körner C, Riedl S, Keplinger T, Richter A, Wiesenbauer J, Schweingruber F, Hiltbrunner E (2019) Life at 0 C: the biology of the alpine snowbed plant Soldanella pusilla. Alpine Botany 129:63-80,
  • Körner C, Hiltbrunner E (2018) The 90 ways to describe plant temperature. Perspect Plant Ecol Evol Syst 30:16-21
  • Körner C, Jetz W, Paulsen J, Payne D, Rudmann-Maurer K, Spehn EM (2017) A global inventory of mountains for bio-geographical applications. Alp Bot 127:1-15
  • Nagelmüller S, Hiltbrunner E, Körner C (2017) Low temperature limits for root growth in alpine species are set by cell differentiation. Aob Plants 9:plx054; doi:10.1093/aobpla/plx054
  • Bühlmann T, Körner C, Hiltbrunner E (2016) Shrub expansion of Alnus viridis drives former montane grassland into nitrogen saturation. Ecosystems 19: 968-985
  • Körner C, Leuzinger S, Riedl S, Siegwolf RT, Streule L (2016) Carbon and nitrogen stable isotope signals for an entire alpine flora, based on herbarium samples. Alp Bot 126:153-166
  • Yang Y, Siegwolf RTW, Körner C (2015) Species specific and environment induced variation of delta-13C and delta-15N in alpine plants. Frontiers in Plant Science 6:Article 423
  • Dietrich L, Körner C (2014) Thermal imaging reveals massive heat accumulation in flowers across a broad spectrum of alpine taxa. Alp Bot 124:27-35
  • Hiltbrunner E, Aerts R, Bühlmann T, Huss-Danell K, Magnusson B, Myrold DD, Reed SC, Sigurdsson BD, Körner C (2014) Ecological consequences of the expansion of N2-fixing plants in cold biomes. Oecologia 176:11-24
  • Körner C (2012) Alpine treelines (Springer, Basel)
  • Körner C (2011) Coldest places on earth with angiosperm plant life. Alpine Botany, DOI 10.1007/s00035-011-0089-1
  • Körner C, Paulsen J, Spehn EM (2011) A definition of mountains and their bioclimatic belts for global comparisons of biodiversity data. Alp Bot 121:73-78
  • Scherrer D, Körner C (2011) Topographically controlled thermal-habitat differentiation buffers alpine plant diversity against climate warming. J Biogeogr 38(2):406-416
  • Scherrer D, Körner C (2010) Infra-red thermometry of alpine landscapes challenges climatic warming projections. Global Change Biol 16:2602-2613
  • Körner C (2009) Global statistics of ’mountain' and ’alpine' research. Mountain Res Dev 29:97-102
  • Körner C (2007) The use of “altitude” in ecological research. TREE 22:569-574
  • Körner C (2003) Alpine plant life, 2nd edition. Springer, Heidelberg
  • Nagy L, Grabherr G, Körner C, Thompson DBA (2003) Alpine biodiversity in Europe. Ecol Studies vol 167, 577 pp. Springer, Berlin
  • Körner C, Paulsen J, Pelaez-Riedl S (2003) A bioclimatic characterisation of Europe’s alpine areas. In: Nagy L, Grabherr G, Körner C, Thompson DBA (eds) Alpine biodiversity in Europe. Springer, Berlin, pp 13-28