Outlook: the Future of Alpine Biodiversity
A global statement about alpine biodiversity is not easy to formulate because of all the difficulties related to the measurement of biodiversity. Not all species living in the Alps are yet known; especially among insects, there is a great lack of knowledge; the diversity of genes and ecological processes are far from being identified.
The differences between countries and regions in measuring and collecting data contribute to this difficulty. Furthermore, particular attention has to be given to the observation level chosen to describe the biodiversity: European, national or local. For instance, Rhododendron heaths are generally rare formations in Europe but very common in some parts of the French Alps.
Nevertheless, the need of conserving biodiversity is acute. Different strategies (international Convention on Biological Diversity, the 2010 Countdown, Alpine Convention, various national strategies), initiatives and projects (ex. "Global 200" by WWF, "Biodiversity Hotspots" by Conservation International, etc.) have been developed at all levels. However, the results of these initiatives are not always easy to grasp and concrete actions are exceptions. Despite all these agreements, the biological diversity is still declining rapidly and at present, the end of this global trend is not in sight. According to the IUCN Red List, between 12% and 52% of species in well-studied groups (conifers, cycads, amphibians, birds, and mammals) are in danger of extinction (GREENFACTS 2007).
Protected areas re crucial to counter the continuing loss of ecosystems and species. More than 900 protected areas (> 100 ha) exist in the Alps (covering about 25% of the Alps) (ALPARC 2007). As protected areas by themselves are not enough to guarantee the sustainable conservation of biodiversity, initiatives like the Pan European Ecological Network aim at conserving and recreating ecological connectivity between ecosystems as a response to biodiversity loss due to landscape and habitat fragmentation (BONNIN 2007).
Sheep, by keeping grasslands open, contribute to maintaining the biodiversity of Alpine meadows (Source: Y. KOHLER, M. STOECKEL).
Nevertheless, the decline of biodiversity in the world and in the Alps cannot only depend on political will. On the contrary, the broad public has to be sensitised to this topic. As the topic is very complex, it is crucial to communicate the issue of biodiversity and its effects on everyday live to the general public and local actors. As an individual, everybody has an essential role to play in promoting biodiversity, in the Alps as well as everywhere else in the world.