Global Change and Mountain Regions

Volume 23 of the series Advances in Global Change Research pp 409-420

Ecological Effects of Land-use Changes in the European Alps

  • Erich TasserAffiliated withEuropean Academy of Bozen
  • , Ulrike TappeinerAffiliated withEuropean Academy of BozenInstitute of Botany, University of Innsbruck
  • , Alexander CernuscaAffiliated withInstitute of Botany, University of Innsbruck

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In many mountain regions, there have been dramatic changes in agricultural land use in recent decades. In some cases, these are related to changes in technology, such as the increased use of machine harvesting of hay or a switch from one breed of grazing animals to another. In other cases, the trend has been to abandon agriculture on less productive and least accessible land (Lambin et al. 1999). In the European Alps, for example, 16% of all farm holdings were abandoned within ten years (1980–1990). In addition, almost 70% of the farms that are still in operation today are run only as a secondary source of income. With regard to the land use issue, this means that an average of about 20% of the agricultural land of the Alps has been abandoned, and in some areas as much as 70% (Tappeiner et al. in press). In contrast, farming in the better agricultural locations is being intensified. Hence, land-use changes are considered to be a major driving force behind changes in landscape patterns, ecosystem function and dynamics in Europe (MacDonald et al. 2000).


Biodiversity Bio-geochemical cycles Comparative measurements Hydrology Natural hazards Transect across the Alps