The Matschertal/ val di Mazia, is one of the many side valleys branching off the main Valley, Vinschgau, situated in the westernmost part of South Tyrol (the northernmost province in Italy).
The valley extends over 90 km2 and the single research sites are located between 950 m and 2340 m a.s.l.. The Matschertal/ val di Mazia was chosen as an LT(S)ER site because of its topography and climate, as well as the land use patterns, which are typical of agricultural practices in mountainous regions in the Alps
The main village Matsch is located at 1600 m and has a population of 458.
TopographyThe catchment spans from its highest point at 3700 m (Palla Bianca) to the lowest at 1000 m in the town of Schluderns and covers all characteristic alpine and subalpine altitudinal belts. The lower reaches of the catchment near Muntatschinig are well-suited for grassland transplantation experiments because of the homogenous terrain over a range of elevations.
The Matschertal is one of the driest valleys in the Alps with an average of 525 mm of precipitation per year (at 1500 m a.s.l.). For centuries, humans dealt with water scarcity and hence, developed a complex channel system for irrigation purposes. The irrigation system carried water deriving from the glacier to the agriculturally used fields and meadows. Nowadays, most of the channels have been replaced by automated irrigation pipes. The aridity may be representative of future scenarios in other regions and thus, the Matschertal can serve as a reference area.
The Matsch valley is suited for parameterizing hydrological models.
The peak Palla Bianca (3738 m), which is part of the Matscher Ferner, closes the valley off to the northeast. The presence of a glacier enables investigations of the glacial runoff into the water regime of a typical inner-Alpine valley.
The valley has very few settlements and is primarily used for farming. The range of land use types is representative of agricultural practices in mountainous regions of the Alps, including heavily cultivated fields, poor- and high-yield meadows, pastureland and typical low-density larch forests.