Vulnerability and Exposure to Geomorphic Hazards: Some Insights from the European Alps

Part of the Advances in Geographical and Environmental Sciences book series (AGES)


Geomorphological processes and society are connected through a diverse set of relationships and feedbacks. One of the main connections concerns the impact of hazardous geomorphic processes on society that lead to economic and life losses. Due to the extent of geomorphological activity in mountain regions, and the considerable proportion of these that are occupied and used by people, mountains are a particular focus in geohazard and interdisciplinary risk research. Taking the European Alps as an example, a short overview indicates the fundamentals of mountain hazard processes and highlights trends in the number of different hazard types in Austria. Climate and environmental change as well as their influence on mountain hazard processes are discussed with a focus on the cryosphere and hydrosphere. Key issues in developing a more thorough understanding of increasing losses and future risk are exposure and vulnerability. Initial insights on exposure are provided by an analysis of the past evolution and current situation in the context of spatial and temporal distribution of values at risk; this is illustrated with reference to Austria. The importance of vulnerability for risk reduction is internationally acknowledged but somewhat less studied and, indeed, seems to be hidden between the different foci of disciplines. Innovative methods for vulnerability analysis (documentation, vulnerability curves) are presented contributing to close this gap. Overall, mountain hazard research highlights the importance of connecting geomorphology and the socio-economy in order to contribute to the most challenging questions of more sustainable societies.


Mountain hazards Environmental change Vulnerability Exposure Risk dynamics 


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© Springer Japan 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.University of BernInstitute of GeographyBernSwitzerland
  2. 2.Institute of Mountain Risk EngineeringUniversity of Natural Resources and Life SciencesWienAustria

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