Funded Interregional Project Networks

Almost the end: The biggest mass extinction of all times as recorded in the rocks of the Southern and Eastern Alps

  • Naturmuseum Südtirol (Evelyn Kustatscher), Coordinator
  • MUSE - Museo delle Scienze Trento (Massimo Bernardi)
  • Karl KRAINER (Universität Innsbruck)

Life history has been marked by the appearance of new types of organisms at different times, such as the flowering plants or mankind. However, it has also been shaped by the disappearance of once flourishing groups, most famously the dinosaurs. When a huge number of species die in a short time a “mass extinction” is said to occur. The most severe extinction event happened deep in Earth’s history, about 252 million years ago. During this event, up to 95% of all species became extinct, and entire groups of organisms were deleted from history as, for example, the spiny bizarre bugs called trilobites. Think about that for a second: 9 out of 10 of the species living in the oceans vanished in a single, catastrophic event!

Despite the magnitude of this event, surprisingly little is known about its causes and its dynamics, especially for terrestrial species, those that lived on lands. This is because very few rock successions recording this mass extinction are available worldwide and because their fossils are generally few and badly preserved. The Alpine region is exceptional in this respect. Here several localities expose thick sequences of sedimentary rocks, which were formed exactly when the extinction was taking place. At that time the Alpine region was located in a different position on the globe as result of the continental drift: It was very much closer to the equator. The climate was much warmer and even the environment was not alike: sea and land touched right in this region. During the mass extinction event the present-day southern part of the Alps (Dolomites), were covered by a shallow sea, while the Lienz Dolomites and Gailtal Alps of Austria were dominated by terrestrial environments

In this project we propose a multidisciplinary, cross-national research to study the effects of the extinction event in different, but very close, localities. Given that the two geographical areas were characterised about 252 million years ago by different environments (terrestrial and shallow marine) but similar climate, their comparison will give us a better picture not only of the real events that brought the ecosystems on the lands to a collapse during the extinction, but will also inform us on the pitfalls that might arise from studying just one environment at time, as it has generally be done for other sites in the World.

As it has been demonstrated, present day biodiversity loss is taking us straight into a new mass extinction event. But not all is gone, yet. A deeper knowledge of past extinctions can help us tackling the risks we are facing and teach us how to recover from catastrophes, as life did even after the most profound extinction of all times. Behind our villages, the grandiose rock walls of the Alps protect the clues of a key event in Earth’s history. This project will illuminate these traces, shading light on our deepest past.

The law of close corporations in the broader European regulatory competition: A View from the Euregio

  • Free University of Bolzano-Bozen (Paolo Giudici), Coordinator
  • University of Trento (Elisabetta Pederzini)
  • Manfred Büchele (Universität Innsbruck)

After the jurisprudence of the European Court of Justice on freedom of establishment of companies in the European Union, regulatory competition for (re)incorporation among Member States and different company types has emerged as a major feature of the European company landscape. The regulatory competition paradigm seems to influence in particular the close corporation which is also the most important company type in terms of diffusion in the local area of the European Region Tyrol-South Tyrol-Trentino and justifies the reason of the research project.

Where does our European Region Tyrol-South Tyrol-Trentino and its respective national legislators stand in the regulatorz competition context (race to the top or to the bottom?) for the best place of incorporation? Where does the Italian and Austrian law on close corporations stand in the competition with the supranational European corporate forms for small and medium-sized enterprises (SPE, SUP)? Considering the actual failure of most of the European attempts to create a supranational legal framework for private companies, would it not be preferable to measure the success of a harmonization effort starting from the “bottom”? In order to answer similar questions it will be necessary to understand the structural configuration of the close corporations, obviously not from a nominalistic point of view, but by composing the substantial elements of characterization of this legal vehicle. In this view, the analysis shall concentrate on the following macro aspects of the diverse regulations and practices (in and outside our Euregio): (i) formation of a close corporation; (ii) articles of association and shareholder agreements; (iii) internal governance and management of the company; (iv) transfer of shares; (v) expulsion and withdrawal of shareholders. Equally, the typical patterns of conflicts in the close corporations have to be investigated (like the one existing between shareholders and managing directors, majority and minority shareholders, etc.). Finally, the investigation will concern the role of judicial and arbitral courts in shareholder disputes, pondering the pro and cons between the equitable common law and the strict legalist civil law remedies.

The present research project is characterized by particular scientific originality, because of both the research topic and the comparative-functional-empirical research methodology. Of special value will be the absolute innovative empirical approach, which aims, through the collection and elaboration of a large number of statutory bylaws, to uncover the law in action. Reform proposals we intend to formulate at the end will thus have a stronger link to reality.

IPN 10

Improve the Science of Processes within the Cryosphere by Integrating Hydrological Modelling with Remote Sensing in a Multi-Level Data Fusion Approach
- a Contribution to Cryosphere Monitoring in the EUREGIO Region

  • EURAC (Claudia Notarnicola), Coordinator
  • University of Trento (Lorenzo Bruzzone)
  • Ulrich Strasser (Universität Innsbruck)

The cryosphere (here: snow, ice and glaciers) is the most important inter-seasonal water storage component in the Alps. Climate variability and climate change directly affects cryospheric parameters and processes related to the energy and water cycle, such as snow water equivalent, glacier mass balance or runoff. Accurate monitoring as well as understanding of such processes is still a field of scientific challenge and of utmost importance for hydropower production, agriculture, winter tourism and flood protection.

Apart from direct observations, hydrological models are the most common approach to study cryospheric processes. However, particularly at larger scales (>10’000 km²), critical processes such as radiation, snow albedo and the energy balance remain underdetermined due to missing spatially explicit data. Satellite remote sensing is a promising technology for generating spatially explicit information on snow for larger areas, but operational products are mainly limited to the detection of snow cover.

In view of this, the central idea of CRYOMON-SciPro is to exploit the complementary character of hydrological modelling and satellite remote sensing for monitoring key processes within the cryosphere by integrating both methods in an innovative approach (multi-level data fusion). The expected innovations out of this project include:

-      An improved representation and understanding of the spatial and temporal dimension of key processes within the cryosphere with a focus on the energy and water cycle on larger scales (> 10’00 km²)

-      An innovative approach of integrating satellite remote sensing and hydrological modelling

-      The first-time application of latest ESA Sentinel 1 (radar) and 2 (optical) satellites for studying the cryosphere

-      The integration of data from new and innovative field measurement techniques (permanent terrestrial laser scanning, field spectrometry)

CRYOMON-SciPro makes use of the EUREGIO region as a field laboratory for cryosphere research with well-instrumented test-sites, high data availability, good contact to authorities and climatological conditions representative for different Alpine zones. The results of the project will thus have a scientific value that is well beyond the EUREGIO region.

CRYOMON-SciPro will form the nucleus of an Interregional Project Network (IPN) on cryosphere science with a complementary expertise of three key research institutions within the EUREGO region:

-      Hydroclimatological modelling and analysis of Cryosphere (Innsbruck University),

-      Applied Remote Sensing of Cryosphere (EURAC Bolzano),

-      Data driven modelling and machine learning approaches (U Trento niversity).

CRYOMON-SciPro is designed as a three year project, with three PhD-students and young postdoctoral researchers as funded stuff. A scheduled exchange program supports knowledge transfer and education of the young researchers.

IPN 12
KAOS: Knowledge-Aware Operational Support

  • Free University of Bolzano-Bozen (Diego Calvanese), Coordinator
  • Fondazione Bruno Kessler (Chiara Ghidini)
  • Barbara Weber (Universität Innsbruck)

Business Process Management (BPM) is a collection of techniques, languages, and methodologies that are meant to improve corporate performance by managing and optimizing the business processes of a company.  Business processes in turn consist of a combination of tasks and operations that are coordinated towards the achievement of the strategic objectives of an organization, and the creation of value for its stakeholders.

While BPM is a mature field for what concerns modeling and enactment of business processes, it is still lacking in the proper support and analysis of the active process executions.  Enhancing BPM with these capabilities would make it possible to give feedback to the involved agents about issues and deviations, as well as provide them advices and predictions on the possible future continuations of the running processes. This is a key aspect, especially in those application domains where there is no guarantee that the process will be executed as expected, and where unforeseen situations may arise. This is the case, e.g., in healthcare, complex engineering processes, and inter-organizational processes.

For this reason, business process operational decision support (OS) has been recently put forward as a framework that produces meaningful feedbacks, based on facts and reality, to domain experts, assisting them in the execution of business processes inside a given organizational context. OS techniques range from compliance checking between the observed and the expected behavior, to prediction of indicators related to the future continuation of the process, and recommendations on what to do next.

So far, the large majority of OS techniques focused on very specific problems, without taking into account three fundamental factors:

  • The complexity and specificity of the organizational domain in which business processes are immersed.
  • The interplay among the business process executions, the manipulated data, the agents, and the organizational structure.
  • The fact that the organizational domain continuously evolves, i.e., is subject to “concept drift”, in turn calling for flexibility in process-aware information system but also in the corresponding OS techniques.

The main goal of the KAOS project is to overcome such issues by empowering OS with domain knowledge. In particular, KAOS will develop a foundational framework of concepts covering organizations, processes, participants, and information as relevant for Knowledge-empowered OS. It will then exploit this framework as the basis for the development of a new generation of OS techniques truly flexible and able to support domain experts and business analysts in the effective execution of business processes.

IPN 18: 

  • Fondazione Bruno Kessler (Fabio Remondino), Coordinator
  • EURAC (Benni Thiebes)
  • Martin Rutzinger (Austrian Academy of Sciences (ÖAW), Institute for Interdisciplinary Mountain Research Innsbruck)

Natural hazards like earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, landslides, droughts, floods, cyclones and fires threaten people and properties. These events can happen in any moment and need be studied and monitored. The project will focus on mass movements and particularly on landslides. The number of landslide events, as well as the direct and indirect damage caused by slope failures are largely increasing over the last years, calling for the development of more adequate methods for landslide monitoring. Therefore the overall aim of the LEMONADE project is to evaluate the abilities, potentialities and limitations of new remote and proximal sensing methods for monitoring ground deformations. The project will consider and merge different platforms (satellite, UAV, land-based), sensors (imaging, ranging, radar, etc.), techniques (photogrammetry, scanning, etc.) and algorithms to deliver an innovative fusion methodology applicable also to other application fields. Sensor fusion and data integration techniques will be used to improve the results of single methods in order to assess the capabilities of a combination of monitoring approaches. The project methodologies will be validated in three test sites with the collaboration of the regional authorities. The outcomes of the project will aid the development of novel approaches for landslide monitoring, a data fusion methodology - reusable also in other fields of application - as well as an open-access best-practice handbook for end-users.

IPN 31:
VITISANA: Dissecting the genetic basis of negative quality traits in new disease resistant grapevines

  • Edmund Mach Foundation (Riccardo Velasco), Coordinator
  • Laimburg Research Center (Jennifer Berger)
  • Hermann Stuppner (Universität Innsbruck)

Grapevine represents great value for the EU, where over 50% of the worldwide grapevine production is concentrated (FAO, 2010). The extraordinary quality of the fruit is unfortunately accompanied by high susceptibility to pests and pathogens, meaning large volumes of chemicals must be used to control crop losses. It has been estimated that the EU uses 68,000 tons/year of fungicides to control grape diseases, equalling 65% of all fungicides used in crops (Eurostat report, 2007). Social and ethical issues impose much more attention to a more sustainable balance of high quality and low input, which is not always compatible and inversely proportioned. EU citizens are more and more sensitive to a sustainable agriculture, which pays attention not only to the production but also to the anthropic impact on the environment and life quality. This has led to an insistence on stricter management of orchards which will only be be possible through the exploitation of information gained through the study of plant genomes. It is known that wild species, related to the crops, may supply a large set of natural disease resistances, developed during their natural coexistence with the pathogens without human intervention. This allowed them to develop natural tools to cope with pest and pathogens, traits which may be transferred to cultivated species through natural breeding. These approaches will benefit from the enormous amount of information coming from genomics research over the last ten years. Knowing the DNA content of the grapevine genome, coupled with efforts toward linking traits and genetic information, traditional breeding may become extraordinarily more successful than the last century, when the breeding activity aiming to get new resistant varieties failed because of the many negative quality traits inherited from the wild species that still remained in the new hybrids. As it has been demonstrated that genetic markers may succeed in the selection of highly resistant varieties, knowledge of gene function and DNA markers linked to quality traits are the new target toward deeper knowledge of the metabolic pathways and the high quality traits of grapevine.

In spite of several decades of breeding activities, mainly in central Europe, only a few new varieties have been registered in National Catalogues. This is mainly because undesirable traits are still compromising the quality of the grape and derived products, especially wine. Our goal is to dissect some of the worst consumer’s refused traits (off-flavours, mathanol, diglucosides) to decouple them from resistance traits carried over by the wildtypes into breeding products. The main result of this project will then be to understand the genetics underlying negative quality traits in disease resistant grapevines, in order to pave the way to the breeding of new varieties with outstanding taste and sustainable cultivation.

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