ALPARC is currently working on a project dealing with the future of alpine protected areas at the horizon 2030. The goal is to identify gaps in the system of spatial protection, both concerning its representativity of wildlife and biodiversity and its spatial distribution and to recommend measures to allow alpine protected areas to become ready for the challenges of a changing world and changing society.
The Alps are a highly diverse system of landscapes and ecological processes, some of which have arisen from their geological, climatological and biological evolution, and parts of which have been shaped by hundreds of years of human habitation and land-use. Today´s Alps are cultural landscapes, especially in the lower regions, but human impact is felt even at high elevations. They are not, then, wilderness areas in the sense of primary nature, untouched by human activity. Nevertheless, they are in some ways also “wild” places. Places where natural spaces have been transformed, but where ecological processes can still occur without much anthropological influence. Such areas are often included in today’s protected areas.
Threats to natural spaces and protected areas in the Alps occur from many human induced sources: There are, on the one hand, direct and immediate threats, such as the growth in leisure activities that may have negative impacts on wildlife and biologically diverse ecosystems, and the progressive fragmentation of landscapes by the construction of infrastructure, land use change (e.g. the abandonment of traditional farming practices that foster biodiversity) and intensive use of natural resources.
On the other hand, alpine protected areas are more and more exposed to threats presented by climate change, which brings with it changes in the distribution of vegetation and wildlife, as well as in meteorological patterns.
All this, and especially land fragmentation, result in shrinking habitats for wildlife. Without protection and restoration, certain habitat types may be lost altogether, while others are turned into isolated islands that do not allow the migration of species between habitat patches.
An evolution of protected area policy, management and perspectives are needed for the Alps considering all these features. Modern management tools and methods integrate adequate governance systems and participative approaches involving the local population. For this reason, a pilot region – the transboundary nature park (Bavaria/D/Vorarlberg/AT) analyses this issue in the course of the project. Beside a profound analysis of the current situation, scenarios for the future are built which will be shown in an extensive report, complementary maps and a video clip. An international peer group is accompanying the project since its start in 2018. Proposals and recommendations will be summarized in a report and submitted to the Alpine Conference by the end of the year. The project is supported by the German Ministry of the Environment (BMU).