The Biological Station Lunz

The Biological Station Lunz was founded in that place because the site lies in a largely undisturbed landscape of mountains and lakes, and because the private owner of the area, Carl Kupelwieser, was fond of natural sciences. Later it turned out that this place is unique in the high diversity of its running waters. We know of no other site worldwide where a research institution has such a rich variation of streams of different types in a short distance. The photographs may give an impression. The Teichbach, which runs in the immediate vicinity of the building, shows extreme daily temperature fluctuations: in early spring it may have 2°C at 7 h in the morning, but 12°C at noon. The Schlöglbergbach on the other hand has a minor daily variation of not more than 3°C, and in winter it has over 0°C. The outlet of the lake may have up to 24°C during fine summer weather, but may quickly drop to 15°C after heavy rainfall, and in winter it is always close to 0°C. On the other hand, the Schreierbach has a constant temperature of 6,5°C all over the year, with a rare fluctuation between 5,5°C to 8°C.

The Biological Station Lunz had a long tradition in biological field research (see also here https://www.wcl.ac.at/index.php/en/about-us/history). This institution was founded in 1906 and was first intended to facilitate any zoological, botanical or similar field work. In those years scientists did not have cars to go quickly out of towns for a short research on plants or animals. The way to Lunz was long: first by railway, changing the train several times, and then a five kilometres walk from the railway station to the Biological Station at the eastern edge of the lake, with all the necessary equipment in the rucksack. Therefore, the usual stay of researchers was for weeks of even months. The studies were performed within walking distance of the building, and usually one could meet fellow workers of related sciences from all over the scientific world. It was a unique opportunity to sit together during long coffee breaks and endless discussions and to start co-operation on joint field projects: geology, climate and weather research, study of insects, lichens, mosses, ornithology and the like. One remarkable result of this co-operations was the detection of a site (Grünloch, a large Doline, which is a karstic depression) high in the mountains where in winter, temperatures lower than –50°C were recorded. Newspaper people with a need for sensation made Lunz itself to be the „European coldness pole“, an opinion which now is still widespread among people. In reality, Lunz has a rather cool climate with high rainfalls like many other sites at the northern slope of the Alps.

In 1924, Franz Ruttner was called from Prague to join the Biological Station. A short time later he became its director until his retirement. He died in 1961. He was a unique and dominant personality. He had originally studied aquatic organisms, so the main work of the Station was focussed on the newly established scientific branch called Limnology (of which he was one of its founders). In these days, limnology was understood as the study of lakes. Running waters were “detected” by limnologists much later. Franz Ruttner was one of the leaders of the famous Sunda Expedition to Indonesia in the years 1928 to 1929, which created the fundamentals of tropical limnology, and the results of which were published in many volumes of the Archiv für Hydrobiologie.

The Biological Station Lunz was closed in 2003. The freshwater studies are however continued by a newly founded institution called WasserCluster Lunz (https://www.wcl.ac.at/index.php/en/). The WasserCluster Lunz is an inter-university centre for freshwater ecosystem research with a broad focus: research targets include nutrient and carbon dynamics, plankton ecology, trophic ecology and freshwater biodiversity.