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Sustainable regional development is a long-term goal for Alpine landscapes and habitats in Switzerland. Areas of high ecological quality and sufficient socio-cultural potential, but insufficient economic power, are looking for long-term perspectives. The economic options of structurally weak peripheral regions could be improved significantly through “brandscaping,” ie a certification strategy for Label Regions focusing on sustainability, thereby “producing” new types of landscapes. An adequate implementation strategy should be based on a reliable indicator system, which should finally lead to certification procedures for regional management. But the implementation of Label Regions (with certification) is only feasible under an innovative development scenario in which the socioeconomic and political environment facilitates such strategies. Labeling intends to offer regional producers an advantage in the nature-based tourism market as well as for other quality products and services, and must be effectively promoted by regional as well as sectoral policies, thus shaping traditional landscapes into “brandscapes.”
Through its biodiversity, landscape, and culture, the Swiss Alpine region has great social and economic significance. The Alpine landscape and its natural resources yield a whole range of benefits that are utilized by a large number of stakeholders who have widely differing interests in use and protection of these resources. Management of landscape development processes is a trans-sectoral task, requiring that different stakeholders work together. Conflicts need to be resolved and sustainable solutions need to be found and implemented. The present article describes how Systemic Landscape Development, a methodological approach for participatory control and organization of these processes, was applied to deal with the complex challenge of a deteriorating protection forest above a motorway of international importance in Central Switzerland. The resulting Stotzigwald Platform project took place as part of the Swiss National Research Program NRP 48, Landscapes and Habitats of the Alps.
Coherent regulation of landscape as a resource is a major challenge. How can the development interests of some actors (eg cable car operators and property developers) be reconciled with those of others (agriculture, forestry) and with conservation of biodiversity and scenic value? To help understand how the newly introduced Regional Nature Parks (RNPs) can improve the coherence of the regulation regime in Switzerland, we highlight current direct mechanisms for regulation of landscape as a resource (bans, inventories, subsidies) as well as indirect mechanisms (taking place through the regulation of the physical basis of landscapes, eg forest, land, and water planning policies). We show that RNPs are fundamentally innovative because they make it possible to manage and coordinate indirect strategies for appropriate regulation of resources at a landscape scale. In other words, RNPs enable organization of governance of landscape as a resource in a perimeter that is not necessarily restricted to administrative boundaries.
As globalization advances, Alpine regions, among others, are increasingly seen as competitive entities in Switzerland. Still, tourism development is often criticized as not being sustainable. The questions arise: How can the sustainability of tourism development be monitored? What indicators can be used to identify sustainable development? How can a strategy be developed to integrate the outcomes of sustainability monitoring so that development is more sustainable? The goal of the research project described below was to develop indicators that can help those responsible in the various regions to shape tourism strategies in a more sustainable way. The indicators must be targeted to support regional management processes.
Prominent construction projects in Switzerland, such as the Sawiris luxury resort in Andermatt planned by Orascom Hotels & Development, Cairo (Egypt), or the idea of a hotel and apartment tower at Schatzalp, Davos, demonstrate how rapidly Alpine landscapes may undergo major changes. Decisions on whether or not such changes are supported by policymakers should be based on the best information available and in agreement with the local population to ensure long-term sustainable development. The present article investigates the potential and limitations of computer-based tools to support such decisions in the area of landscape planning, with a particular focus on Alpine landscapes.
Swiss National Research Programs (NRPs) are usually geared to addressing issues of major societal concern. In so doing these programs produce different kinds of knowledge: analytical knowledge necessary for revealing the driving forces, conflicting interests and institutional settings that govern the processes under scrutiny; target knowledge oriented towards revealing the directions in which the processes should be guided; and action knowledge that informs about the means by which this can best be achieved. Analytical knowledge answers the questions “what is the problem?” and “what causes it?” while target knowledge helps to define “what is our vision for the future?” and action knowledge deals with “how can we solve the problem?” Production of these 3 different types of knowledge is usually linked in an iterative process in the course of the research supported in an NRP.
Alpine landscapes arouse emotions and yearnings: feelings of belonging, freedom, or holidays. Images and notions about Alpine landscapes not only influence landscape experiences, they also play an important role in decision-making processes and conflict mitigation. Different stakeholders—ie locals, tourists, tourist entrepreneurs, politicians, farmers, hunters, etc—regard Alpine landscapes with different eyes, yet there are also connecting elements: these are referred to in tourism marketing and in political dialogue. The present article develops a conceptual model landscape perception consisting of 4 poles—‘nature’ and ‘culture’ as well as ‘individual’ and ‘society’—that contributes to a better understanding of the meanings that landscapes have for different people. The model helps to find existing commonalities among stakeholders and overcome obstacles. It is exemplified by 6 dimensions with distinct foci on landscapes through which researchers look at Alpine landscapes. The article concludes with recommendations for ethical landscape development practice and policy.
Landscape is an important resource for mountain regions, particularly for tourism. Guiding future landscape development is necessary to meet the expectations of mountain inhabitants, tourists, and the general public outside mountain areas. The studies presented here show how different societal groups perceive past and future landscape changes in the Alps. The results reveal that it is not landscape change per se that is assessed as good or bad, it is the (related) change in the meaning of the landscape elements that leads to positive or negative assessments. There is a surprisingly broad consensus among different social groups regarding major landscape developments. However, there are also significant and relevant differences between these groups, eg between people living inside and outside the Alps, and between lay people and experts. Both conflicting and compatible views about landscape change are key elements in landscape planning.
Alpine grasslands are ecosystems with a great diversity of plant species. However, little is known about other levels of biodiversity, such as landscape diversity, diversity of biological interactions of plants with herbivores or fungal pathogens, and genetic diversity. We therefore explored natural and anthropogenic determinants of grassland biodiversity at several levels of biological integration, from the genetic to the landscape level in the Swiss Alps. Differences between cultural traditions (Romanic, Germanic, and Walser) turned out to still affect land use diversity and thus landscape diversity. Increasing land use diversity, in turn, increased plant species diversity per village. However, recent land use changes have reduced this diversity. Within grassland parcels, plant species diversity was higher on unfertilized mown grasslands than on fertilized or grazed ones. Most individual plants were affected by herbivores and fungal leaf pathogens, reflecting that parcels harbored a great diversity of herbivores and pathogens. However, as plant damage by herbivores and pathogens was not severe, conserving these biological interactions among plants is hardly compromising agricultural goals. A common-garden experiment revealed genetic differentiation of the important fodder grass Poa alpina between mown and grazed sites, suggesting adaptation. Pervillage genetic diversity of Poa alpina was greater in villages with higher land use diversity, analogous to the higher plant species diversity there. Overall, landscape diversity and biodiversity within grassland parcels are currently declining. As this contradicts the intention of Swiss law and international agreements, financial incentives need to be re-allocated and should focus on promoting high biodiversity at the local and the landscape level. At the same time, this will benefit landscape attractiveness for tourists and help preserve a precious cultural heritage in the Swiss Alps.
Alpine regions provide diverse ecosystem goods and services (ES) to human society. Yet as many of these ES are not bought or sold, their value must be estimated using a surrogate for observable behavior witnessed in the marketplace. The present article reviews ES valuation studies conducted in the European Alps. In addition, we present the results of a case study where we integrated the value of selected ES (avalanche protection, scenic beauty values, C-sequestration, habitats of capercaillie [Tetrao urogallus]) into the planning of new settlement areas in the tourism resort of Davos (Swiss Alps). Benefit estimates derived from the economic valuation studies tend to be specific to a particular method, ecosystem, and socioeconomic circumstance. The case study shows, however, that consideration of ES values can help identify the most beneficial locations for new development if appropriate selection of ES is made, and if these ES can be valued in a spatially explicit form. The achievements of research to date indicate that accounting for the value of multiple ES in an Alpine region will increasingly make important information available to planners.
The Alps are one of the largest natural regions left in Europe and therefore of particular importance for biodiversity; but they are also home to 14 million people and one of the most visited areas in the world. This is not without impact on biodiversity. Habitat loss and fragmentation, climate change, changes in agricultural practices, and pollution are among the most important reasons for biodiversity loss and landscape destruction in the Alps. The creation of a functioning ecological network in the Alps can help to conserve extraordinarily rich alpine diversity. Two closely linked initiatives are working together to implement an ecological network: on the one hand the Ecological Continuum Project initiated in June 2007 by the Alpine Network of Protected Areas (ALPARC), the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF), the International Scientific Committee on Research in the Alps (ISCAR), and the International Commission for the Protection of the Alps (CIPRA); on the other, the Ecological Network Platform of the Alpine Convention.