Dynamics of initial ecosystem development at the artificial catchment Chicken Creek, Lusatia, Germany

TitleDynamics of initial ecosystem development at the artificial catchment Chicken Creek, Lusatia, Germany
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2013
AuthorsElmer M, Gerwin W, Schaaf W, Zaplata MK, Hohberg K, Nenov R, Bens O, Hüttl RF
JournalEnvironmental Earth Sciences
Start Page491
KeywordsEnvironmental monitoring, Erosion, Groundwater recharge, Initial stage, Primary succession, Soil development

n autumn 2005, the artificial catchment Chicken Creek was completed in an open-cast lignite mine in Lusatia, Germany. The 6 ha area has been constructed as a two-layer system consisting of a clay aquiclude and a sandy aquifer at the top. After construction, the site was left to an unrestricted and unmanaged succession. A comprehensive environmental monitoring program started immediately after the site was completed. Time series of essential environmental parameters were recorded with high temporal and spatial resolution. This paper presents selected time series of the past 6-year ecosystem development. Important changes registered in this period allow for the definition of distinctive phases of the still ongoing initial ecosystem evolution. A primary, short, but pronounced geo-phase—characterized by surface runoff, excessive erosion and sedimentation as well as very rapid immigration of biota—was followed by a hydrological dominated phase with processes, such as groundwater recharge. At the end of the study period, biotic processes became more evident. It can be concluded that the artificial catchment offers unique opportunities for interdisciplinary research on the establishment of an ecological system with rapidly growing complexity. The highly dynamic development of the Chicken Creek catchment provides the possibility to observe manifold changes within short time and to detect feedbacks and their modifications between different ecosystem compartments.