Intermediate LEVEL CONTENTS
I.1 ) AlpES approach to Ecosystem Services
Becoming aware about the specificity of the Alps about Ecosystem Services
- Learn about the most relevant Alpine Ecosystem Services
Apprehending what are the most relevant Alpine Ecosystem Services
Peculiarities of Alpine Ecosystems
The Alps are subject to the threats of globalization, which has brought about new challenges, not always positive. For example, changes in the market have caused harsh social and economic effects and led to the abandonment or bad exploitation of large parts of the mountains. A rapid climate change is impacting on many aspects of the life of Alpine populations.
Climate change is another major threat to Alpine ecosystems. Modifications in the quantity of precipitation, snow-cover and glacier storage and extent risk altering the water cycle. This can affect rare habitats as well as ecosystem services like the availability of drinking water. In addition, an increase of natural hazardous events is probable, such as floods, landslides and avalanches. The composition of ecosystems might also be modified by the rising snowline, exposing the Alps to the possibility of the arrival of new invasive species.
Political and economic processes, associated with social changes which impact small communities, are modifying the Alpine Space. One example is the agglomeration processes at the bottom of the valleys, with an increase in the size of farms. Agriculture has vanished from many hillsides and is concentrated in large farms in the lowlands. This change causes a loss in biodiversity, especially when Alpine pastures, rich in species, are overgrown by forests and bushes.
Regions easily accessible, equipped for tourism and having cultural attractions, are experiencing a growth of population, combined with often excessive commuter flows and high presence of tourists during the seasonal peaks. These phenomena cause problems for sustainable development because they produce pollution, soil sealing and a decrease in open spaces.
The Ecosystem Services considered by the AlpES project
- Covers all divisions according to the CICES system;
- Provides geographic relevance: these ecosystem services are geographically relevant for the Alpine area;
- Considers a local or regional policy relevance: the selected ecosystem services can be influenced by local and regional policy;
- Offers a good tangibility: these ecosystem services can be easily communicated to decision makers and civic societies.
The table below introduces the eight AlpES ecosystem services, linking them to their CICES classification.
The 8 alpine Ecosystem services considered by AlpES project
|Provision||Nutrition||Water||Surface water for drinking||Drinking water with minor or no treatments|
|Materials||Biomass||Fibres and other materials from plants, algae and animals for direct use or processing||Grassland biomass|
|Energy||Biomass-based energy sources||Plant-based resources||Fuel wood|
|Regulation & Maintenance||Mediation of waste, toxics and other nuisances||Mediation by ecosystems||Filtration/sequestration/storage/accumulation by ecosystems||Filtration of surface water by ecosystems|
|Mediation of flows||Mass flows||Mass stabilisation and control of erosion rates||Protection of areas against avalanches, mudslides and rock falls|
|Maintenance of physical, chemical, biological conditions||Atmospheric composition and climate regulation||Global climate regulation by reduction of greenhouse gas concentrations||CO2 sequestration by forests and bogs|
|Cultural||Physical and intellectual interactions with biota, ecosystems, and land-/seascape||Physical and experiential interactions||Physical use of land-/seascapes in different environmental settings||Outdoor recreation activities|
|WFD (2000): Directive Physical and intellectual interactions with biota, ecosystems, and land-/seascape||Spiritual and/or emblematic||Symbolic||Symbolic alpine plants, animals and landscapes|
Actions and stakeholders for protection of Ecosystem Services in the Alps