How is agriculture in the alpine region used


Mountain agriculture plays a central role in ensuring Alpine traditional landscape, regional breeds and species and preserving local culture, heritage and traditional techniques. However, mountain agriculture is also highly environmentally sensitive and therefore especially vulnerable to climate change.


Why the Alpine region?

The Alpine region is home to sensitive ecosystems and landscapes that are the result of a millenary interaction between natural systems and human activities. The region faces the challenge of protecting its environment while also meeting the socio-economic aspirations of local populations.

How has traditional alpine farming changed in the last 50 years?

In the last 50 years, traditional Alpine farming changed radically: remote farming locations were abandoned while the more favourable zones were intensified. This trend has led to a decrease in biodiversity as species rich mountain pastures are either converted into heavily fertilised ‘green deserts’ or overgrown by forests.

How do alpine plants survive in the mountains?

By low stature and dense stand structure, alpine plants restrict aerodynamic exchange with the atmosphere, which causes heat to accumulate during periods with solar radiation and permit plants to operate at comparatively warm temperatures, much unlike those experienced by upright, ventilated trees. The life-form ‘tree’ does not permit any escape…

What are the most relevant management challenges for the Alpine region?

The most relevant management challenges, as regards particularly relevant environmental issues for the Alpine region and its future sustainable development, are related to transport, climate change and tourism as well as biodiversity, energy and water management, and their mutual influences.


What is Alpine agriculture?

Introduction. Alpine farming (Alpwirtschaft) is commonly described as the movement of humans with their livestock between permanent settlements in the mountain valleys in winter and temporary settle- ments in the alpine and subalpine belt for pasturing in summer.

What type of farming is found in the Alps?

Alpine transhumance is transhumance as practiced in the Alps, that is, a seasonal droving of grazing livestock between the valleys in winter and the high mountain pastures in summer (German Alpwirtschaft, Almwirtschaft from the term for “seasonal mountain pasture”, Alp, Alm).

Is there farming in the Alps?

Intensively farmed areas are most common in broad valleys and on easily accessible slopes. The negative impacts associated with this kind of farming are mainly due to the massive use of fertilizers, grading, and drainage. It is also the source of homogenisation and monoculture crops.

How important is agriculture in Switzerland?

The agricultural sector is only a very small part of the Swiss economy, but it is very important for the tourism industry and the country’s food security. The primary sector contributed around 1% to Switzerland’s gross domestic product in 2016 and generated annual revenues of CHF 10.1 billion in 2015.

How do the Alps help farmers in the surrounding areas?

From April to September, cattle graze high up on the meadows of the Alps, known as alms, before returning to their winter homes. The grass aids milk production and is a free natural alternative to the cattle feed that is required when there isn’t an abundance of foliage.

Are valleys good for agriculture?

With soils that are more fertile than in the uplands and water and/or soil moisture available throughout the year, inland valleys provide smallholder farmers with opportunities to produce crops all year round, particularly in drought years, thereby mitigating food shortages in upland fields and improving farmers’ …

What crops grow on mountains?

Favorite Mountain Garden Crops Carrots, radishes, potatoes, beets, sweet corn, most squash varieties, peas, some varieties of tomatoes, kohlrabi, rutabaga, turnips, melons, many varieties of beans, pumpkins, and other favorites can be grown with great success in most high mountain valleys.

What is alpine pasture?

Alpine pastures (German “Alm” or “Alpe” meaning a summer mountain farm) have a long history in the European Alps (Bätzing, 2015; Ringler, 2010. They were first developed in the middle ages to extend the feeding opportunities for livestock.

What crops are grown in the Swiss Alps?

In terms of area, the most significant organic crops grown in Switzerland are bread cereals, fodder cereals, vegetables and potatoes. The main organic products of animal origin are milk, meat or meat products, eggs and dairy products, the latter being the most important product group.

What kind of agriculture is in Switzerland?

Agricultural production focuses on the following food crops: sugar beet, wheat, apples, carrots and potatoes. 81%–98% of the food energy consumed in Switzerland comes from crops that are not native to the region. Most of these plants’ diversity is found elsewhere around the planet.

What percentage of land is used for agriculture in Switzerland?

In Switzerland, land used for agriculture amounts to 37% of the total area. About one third of the agricultural land is located in the midlands. Pastures and meadows account for the largest part of the entire agricultural land.

What form of farming occurs throughout Switzerland?

Practiced throughout the country but especially prominent in the Mittelland and pre-Alps, cattle raising is Switzerland’s primary agricultural pursuit, yielding products exported throughout Europe. The income from dairying and cattle raising amounts to more than two-thirds of all agricultural value.

Selected Documents and Publications

Final Report of the Mountain Agriculture and Mountain Forestry Working Group of the Alpine Convention 2019-2020 (2020)


International Conference on the Future of Mountain Agriculture in the Alps, St. Johann im Pongau (AT), 13-14 September 2017

What is Alpine food?

Alpine food products are often high-quality niche products, attracting specific consumer markets, and are often deeply integrated in local value chains. As consumers of such products often have a high awareness on climate change, they should also have a willingness to pay for additional climate change efforts of mountain farmers.

Is Alpine mountain farming organic?

Alpine mountain agriculture is a suitable place to adopt and test organic and other low impact approaches to smaller food productions. This pathway aims at significantly increasing the share of Alpine agriculture adopting climate-friendly and organic farming methods through regional and national policy action.

What is the Alpine support policy?

In view of the difficult conditions in which Tyrolean farmers must work (steep slopes, short flowering season, scattered nature of parcels, etc.) a very active support policy for Alpine agriculture is in place which seeks to enable farms to continue competing on the market, as well as ensuring the conservation of a unique area and countryside which also underpins a significant tourist sector as well.

What are the Alps?

The Alps are an imposing natural barrier across which several national frontiers have been constructed. Despite everything, they form a homogenous zone and their peoples share similar problems and have deep-seated ties regardless of the State they are located in.

Is Trentino an autonomous region?

Trentino-Alto Adige is an Autonomous Region with Special Status within the Italian constitutional structure, and comprises two Autonomous Provinces: Trentino, or Trento; and Alto Adige/Südtirol (1) or Bolzano (Bozen in German, Balsan in Ladino).

What percentage of the European Alps are farmland?

In the European Alps, a total of roughly 18 % of the area is farmland and a further 18 % is covered by natural and semi-natural grassland). In total, about 31.4 % of the Alps, with a surface area of 190,600 km2, are still used for agricultural purposes. Therefore, agriculture has a great responsibility for these areas and, by cultivating arable land, fields and pastures, makes an important contribution to the maintenance of a diversified cultural landscape in the Alps.

How does social farming help mountain farms?

Social farming helps mountain farms to deal with current socioeconomic challenges that threaten the cultural identity and traditions of mountain areas. It is an innovative bottom-up initiative that addresses societal needs and complements institutionalized social services. In the north Italian province of South Tyrol, social farming is mainly implemented by women farmers offering educational services on their farms. This paper examines how these activities influence the transmission and transformation of (agri)-cultural values of mountain farming in South Tyrol. Data were extracted from a 2017 online survey among farmers who offered educational services in this province. The results demonstrate that farms offering these services are distributed throughout the whole region. Through the variety of topics included in their lessons, farmers have a key role in transmitting (agri)-cultural values and traditions to nonfarmers. Although farm-based educational services in general may increase a farm’s income, the results show that they contribute little to the economic viability of the farm. Nevertheless, these services provide an interesting field of action, where all family members can share ideas and interact with children, teachers, and parents. In parallel to cultural transmission, farm-based educational services can therefore transform traditional (agri)-cultural values in family farms, shifting from traditionally patriarchal values. Women farmers, in particular, gain an opportunity to acquire new skills and a personal income, independent of agricultural production. Therefore, the provision of these services contributes to the social sustainability of family farms.

What are the agro-pastoral systems in southern Europe?

Agro-pastoral systems in southern European regions have been subjected to various disturbances in the past few decades. Still, a certain amount of resilience allowed to withstand its sharp decline. The Serra da Estrela cheese production, the most representative agro-pastoral system of the Portuguese Centro Region, is a demonstrative case study. The main objective of this research is to understand the trajectory of this system up to present, its adaptation to internal and external changes and evolution trends. We used the concepts of resilience and socio–ecological system as framework in a qualitative study. Participatory methods were applied using the perspectives of local actors, in order to identify and analyze the key factors. The main drivers are socio-demographic (ageing, depopulation, social perception of the profession), economic (free market, industrialization), political (lack of adequate of national and European policies) and environmental (climate change, forest fires). Our results are in line with other European cases. To cope with these trends, the system is irreversibly transforming, moving into a new trajectory characterized by different systemic architecture. In face of the ongoing changes, the interactions between the social and the ecological subsystems are blurring, whereas local communities and traditions are being excluded.

Alpine Ecosystems and the High-Elevation Treeline

Why is there lush alpine vegetation but trees cannot grow? Are alpine plants physiologically superior, able to cope with those low temperatures which otherwise are harming trees? There is good evidence that thermal constraints for growth, that is, building new tissue, are the same for alpine plants, cold-adapted trees, and winter crops (winter rape and winter wheat), all being completely halted when tissue temperatures drop below 5 °C, and growth is close to zero at 6–7 °C.


Alastair Fitter, Robert Hay, in Environmental Physiology of Plants (Third Edition), 2002


Alastair Fitter, Robert Hay, in Environmental Physiology of Plants (Third Edition), 2002

The roles of mycorrhizas in ecosystems

Sally E Smith, David J Read, in Mycorrhizal Symbiosis (Second Edition), 2002

Seed Germination and Seedling Growth

Theodore T. Kozlowski, Stephen G. Pallardy, in Growth Control in Woody Plants, 1997

Vulnerability of Ecosystems to Climate

Leaf dry mass per unit area (LMA) is a measure of thickness and/or density of leaf tissue, which allows an approximation of leaf dry matter investment per unit of light intercepting area of leaf deployed ( Wright et al. 2004 ).

Ecological Metabolomics: Challenges and Perspectives

The expansive datasets that are originated from metabolomic research reports are generally evaluated, annotated, and envisioned via curated online portals such as ( Zhang et al., 2010) and, where ecological and genetic information linked to the experiments can also be considered as covariables ( Bais et al., 2010; Bais, Moon-Quanbeck, Nikolau, & Dickerson, 2011 ).

Why is the Alpine region important?

The Alpine region is home to sensitive ecosystems and landscapes that are the result of a millenary interaction between natural systems and human activities. The region faces the challenge of protecting its environment while also meeting the socio-economic aspirations of local populations. These challenges at local level are exacerbated by threats posed by global warming and a rapidly evolving world economy. A sustainable balance can actually be achieved in the region through more effective spatial planning and better management of natural resources.

What is the landscape of the Alpine region?

[3] The Alpine landscape is characterised by a mix of land uses, being heavily shaped by the presence of humans and the most relevant economic activities in the Alps.

What are the four types of climates in the Alpine region?

All in all, four types of climatic areas can be identified: Mediterranean, Continental, Atlantic, and Polar.

What are the environmental challenges in the Alpine region?

The most relevant management challenges, as regards particularly relevant environmental issues for the Alpine region and its future sustainable development, are related to transport, climate change and tourism as well as biodiversity, energy and water management, and their mutual influences.

What is the Alpine Convention?

In this respect, the Alpine Convention is cooperating with the European Environment Agency (EEA) in order to improve the exchange of information and data

What percentage of the land is suitable for settlement in the Central Alps?

In extensive areas of the Central Alps, the land suitable for settlement is on average limited to 17 % of the available area; [4] this implies considerable competition for land, meaning that spatial planning has a major role to play in the area.

How many countries are in the Alps?

The Alps [1] cover a territory of approximately 190 700 km² and encompass eight European countries: Austria, France, Germany, Italy, Liechtenstein, Monaco, Slovenia and Switzerland. …


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