Since 2005 the Chicken Creek catchment offers multiple opportunities to explore the initial phase of ecosystem development starting from a well defined "point zero". Situated in the post mining area of a lignite open-cast mine in Lower Lusatia (eastern Germany) optimum conditions for interdisciplinary ecosystem research are available. The ongoing primary succession is not influenced by anthropogenic measurements so that self-organization of ecosystems as well as the development of structural elements and patterns can be observed in both terrestrial and aquatic sub-systems. The construction of the 6 ha large site allows for the development of a local groundwater body enabling investigations of feedbacks between e.g. hydrological and geomorphic or botanic structural elements. In addition, the formation of a pond was allowed to elucidate interactions between terrestrial and aquatic sub-systems. The evolution of the Chicken Creek Catchment is observed by a comprehensive ecological monitoring program since September 2005.
Results of the ongoing monitoring program are published in the scientific series Ecosystem Development.
PI: Christoph Hinz | PI: Reinhard F. Hüttl | PI: Wolfgang Schaaf | CO-PI: Werner Gerwin
Additional site information:
During construction a base clay layer of 1 to 3 m in thickness was dumped and flattened as a barrier for seepage water. The surface of the clay layer was shaped as a shallow basin ascending from the centre to the edges to form the subsurface boundary for the catchment. The slope of the clay layer with an average inclination of 3 % is parallel to that of the surface area. In addition, the construction plan allowed for the establishment of a small pond at the lowest part of the catchment with a diameter of around 70 m and a maximum depth of 3 m.
On top of the clay layer a sandy substrate was dumped with a thickness of up to 3.5 m. This was designated as aquifer so that a local groundwater body might develop. After dumping, the upper part of the cones was leveled by caterpillars and the surface of the site was flattened and homogenized using rails pulled by tractors. With this last treatment the surface formations stemming from the construction works were removed and a basin was formed to define the final surface boundaries of the catchment. The site was fenced in completely to avoid disturbances. The construction operations were completed in September 2005 which is therefore defined as the “point zero” of the ongoing development of the site. Since then the site has been left for an unrestricted and unmanaged primary succession.
Within the catchment monitoring of environmental parameters is carried out to measure meteorological, hydrologic and soil conditions as well as deposition inputs. The permanent monitoring installations are oriented along a regular grid of 20 x 20 m with marked grid points. They include groundwater gauges, flumes for runoff measurements, weirs, water samplers, TDR-probes, tensiometers, ceramic suction plates for sampling soil solution and meteorological stations. In addition to these permanent installations other measurements, records and samplings are carried out regularly with respect to vegetation, soil fauna and limnology. Aerial photographs are taken regularly in spring, summer and autumn using a microdrone.