The objective of BITÖK research is to investigate the effect of anthropogenic deposition on forest ecosystems and groundwater. As effects are increasingly observed in deeper soil layers and in the groundwater, the Department of Hydrogeology was founded in October 1993.

General scope

The subject of hydrogeological and hydrological investigations is located at the lower flux boundary of the watersheds under investigation. The dynamics observed here are not only due to hydrological and hydrochemical processes in the deeper layers, but to meteorological, plant physiological and soil processes as well. Thus, research of the Department of Hydrology combines hydrogeological methods with the attempt to map the input on the dynamics observed at the lower boundary. Here, both deterministic and empirical models are used to reduce the apparent complexity in the measured hydrological and hydrochemical time series. At present, much emphasis is put on time series modeling with artificial neural networks.


BITÖK's main investigation sites are two forested catchments. The 4.2 km2 Lehstenbach catchment in the Fichtelgebirge region is covered by a Norway spruce forest (Picea abies (L.) Karst.). The granitic bedrock is deeply weathered. The second study site is the 0.45 km2 Steinkreuz catchment in the Steigerwald region. The underground is built up by sandstone and clay layers of Upper Triassic sediments. It is covered by a hardwood forest (Fagus silvatica (L.), Quercus petraea (L.) and Quercus robur (L.) predominantly).
As the ecosystems response to the changing chemical climate is supposed to occur at a time scale of decades, a long term monitoring program is an important for ecosystems research. A substantial share of this program is done by the Department of Hydrogeology, including meteorological, soil hydrological, hydrogeological and surface water measurements at high temporal resolution (down to 5 minutes).
Besides, supplementary measurements are performed. They comprise, e.g., tracer and isotope studies, pumping tests and geophysical surveys.