The Park's habitats
Few other areas of the Dolomites exhibit the annals of their formation as vividly as the Schlern / Sciliar region. The formation of its varied landscapes is due to rock-forming reefs as well as powerful volcanic eruptions below the surface of the Tertiary Mediterranean Paleotethys. The first stratum consists of quartz-containing porphyry, which is mostly dark red in color and is typical for the area around Bozen / Bolzano. This stratum contains Gröden sandstone, whose iron content often makes the ground gleam bright red. The succeeding strata, which date back to the Perm (Bellerophon strata) and Lower Trias (Werfen strata), are almost entirely covered by extended forests. Further strata are the Wengen and Cassian Strata, which have their greatest area of extension on Seiser / Sciliar Alpine pasture. Seiser / Sciliar Alpine pasture is particularly rich in springs, rivulets and boggy areas such as Großes Moos thanks to the high clay content of the soil and its resulting capacity to store large amounts of water. The Frötschbach, Frommbach and Jenderbach / Rio Freddo, Rio Fromm Rio Saltria rivulets are fed by Seiser /Sciliar Alpine pasture springs. The Schlern region owes its topography to its geological formations. The Schlern / Sciliar Dolomite – a Dolomite rock named after this mountain – is a reef stone consisting of algae and corals that comprise the rock faces of the Western Dolomites with their many crevices and chimneys. Volcanic activity in the reef area and at the bottom of the Tethys Sea has led to the formation of many minerals on Seiser /Sciliar Alpine pasture.
The Schlern Dolomite is the site of argillaceous and sandy Raibl strata that cover most of the plateau. The Main Dolomite, which is the last of the Mesozoic strata, has been almost entirely eroded. Pez (2,563 m) and Kranzer (2,465 m) mountains are composed of this whitish rock. The main fossil of the Main Dolomite is the megalodon, which is often found in the massive beds of this rock as well as in detritus cones and at the base of rock faces.
On the Seis / Siusi, Völs / Fié and Tiers / Tires sides, Schlern / Sciliar mountain is framed by mixed coniferous forests. The Forest of Hauenstein / Castelvecchio, situated in northeast Seis / Siusi, mainly consists of spruces and larches and, to a lesser extent, also of Scots pines, firs, ashes, birches and mountain-ashes. Völser Weiher / Laghetto di Fié pond, which is located inside the park, is surrounded by Scots pine woods. There are also cembra pines on the Völs / Fié side. The rear portions of Tschafon and Tschamin / Ciamin valleys are covered with high lying forests of spruces, larches and Scots pines. The most secluded parts of these forests are densely covered with berry-bearing dwarf shrubs and are populated by capercaillies. Woodpeckers and owls are found in the vicinity of old stands of trees. Birds such as the crossbill and the willow tit are typical denizens of the mountain forests surrounding the Schlern / Sciliar region.
Alpine pastures and Tschapit / Ciapit meadows
Legends and bog findings suggest that Seiser / Sciliar Alpine pasture and the Schlern / Sciliar area were completely covered by coniferous forests for thousands of years. These forests, which reached an altitude of at least 2,200 m, fell victim to slash and burn agriculture whose pastures now form a colorful carpet of heath lands, meadows and boggy areas. The spring bogs and the rivulet gutters provide a home for bird’s eye primroses and butterworts as well as for numerous mosses, sedges, cotton grass and rush. However, development measures and the use of fertilizers have seriously damaged the extraordinary flora of Seiser Alm / Alpe di Siusi and have reduced the area’s size. In this area, purple saxifrages, crocuses, anemones and soldanels are among the earliest flowering plants. Alpine roses grow in areas where no grass is cut. Black grouse are observed near the timber line. Alpine choughs often fly close to refuges in search of food.
Dolomite rock and detritus cirques
The fact that the peaks and rocks of the Schlern mountains towered above the firn already during the period of maximal ice age glaciation enabled plants, the so called endemites to survive the glacial period. Such was the case with Campunula and devil’s claw. Typical representatives of Schlern / Sciliar flora also include Vitaliana primuliflora, Facchini’s saxifrage, Dolomite androsace and mountain thrift. Chamoise and deer are often observed at Schlern-Rosengarten / Sciliar-Catinaccio Nature Park. Golden eagles build their aeries in the park. Alpine choughs, common ravens, rockswallows and Alpine swifts also nest in the rock faces of Schlern / Sciliar.
History and legends
The sub-Alpine highlands of Völs / Fié, Seis / Siusi and Kastelruth / Castelrotto, which are located just outside the park, were inhabited in prehistoric times. Several findings in Ums / Umes and Völser Aicha / Aica di Fié prove that there have been human settlements in this area since the bronze age. The most valuable finding of the area, known as the Sword of Hauenstein / Castelvecchio, was found inside the park at the foot of Schlern / Sciliar mountain. Findings at Purgstall / Monte Castello and Plörg suggest that the beautiful view from Schlern / Sciliar Mountain attracted people even in prehistoric times. The rock fortress of Hauenstein / Castelvecchio was the home of the late-medieval poet and bard Oswald von Wolkenstein.
Generations of mountaineers have practiced on the rock faces of Schlern / Sciliar mountain. A century ago the legendary refuge Schlernhaus became a jumping off point for South Tyrol’s Alpine association “Alpenverein”.
At Seiser Alm / Alpe di Siusi, some of the world’s first skiers descended their first snowy slopes. Later, the pioneers of South Tyrolean tourism built the first ski lifts, and human civilization took possession of these mountain heights in an ever increasing pace. In the early 1970s, this evolution was brought under control by a land use plan for Seiser Alm / Alpe di Siusi. The plan called for a reduction in vehicular traffic and building construction, and for the protection of still-intact areas through the establishment of South Tyrol’s first nature park. Initially there were loud voices of protest, as farmers feared for their existence, hunters for their game and the tourist industry for their hotel and ski lift projects. And yet, only a few years later the town of Völs / Fié took it upon itself to apply for an expansion of the park’s surface area.