The work of the unit focuses on water turnover in torrent catchments. The focus is on quantifying the retention capacity of vegetation and soil and the near-surface geological substrate. Of particular interest are those water volumes that reach alpine torrents as direct runoff (surface runoff), as subsurface runoff (interflow) or as deep runoff. For their quantitative assessment, specific model approaches are developed or existing approaches are used or further developed. Further tasks of the unit are laboratory analysis (determination of soil physical parameters) as well as documentation and process analysis after torrent events and flash floods.
A special research focus is devoted to the influence of anthropogenic activities, such as the type and intensity of forestry and agricultural use, changes in land use or sealing of the landscape on runoff behavior.
The effect of protection forests and their contribution to stabilization against landslides in steep catchments are also investigated; another research topic is the documentation of wildwood potential in torrents and the development of recommendations for driftwood prevention.
Based on data from hydrologic long-term monitoring areas and extensive field investigations, practical approaches are realized, i.e., a field guide for estimating surface runoff coefficients during heavy rainfall, the N-/A-model ZEMOKOST, or the AVA tool, an approach which enables the quantification of land surface sealing effects on runoff.
The soil hydrological parameters and runoff coefficient maps developed for different provinces of Austria, play an important role especially in the preparation of the hazard zone maps by the WLV or in expert activities. In addition, regionalization of soil physical parameters and soil hydrological data has also become an important pillar of the unit.