Landscape Development in the Alps


Landscape Development in the Alps

"Since about five years, the role of landscapes as a political issue at the European level has been steadily increasing. Despite the absence of formal, statutory European instruments for landscapes, they have captured the interest of both scientific and governmental bodies alike. ... Like no other discipline, a landscape approach offers holistic assessment and planning tools to define and develop the interface between nature and culture. Hence, landscape, as the place of human interaction with nature appears to be the heart of sustainability" (COUNCIL OF EUROPE 2000).

by Wolfgang Pfefferkorn, CIPRA International and Rosniak & Partner GmbH


Alpine pasture in the Styrian Alps (Austria), 2003 (Source: ROSINAK & PARTNER)
The landscape issue is of increasing importance not only for biodiversity, but also as a resource and location factor for regional economic development and a key element of regional identity in the Alps. In the last 30 years, Alpine regions and landscapes have been facing extensive changes and we can expect that this process of transformation will continue.

The discussion about landscape development has long been dominated by aspects related to conservation and the protection of nature. Over the past few years, this discussion has been superseded by new and more comprehensive approaches fuelled by the concept of sustainable development. Although in the meantime cultural landscape has become a key research subject, a wide range of heterogeneous definitions and approaches to the landscape issue still exist at the European level.

"Cultural (man-dominated) landscape is a spatial system of activity that is perceived by human beings as a unit and results from mans´ interaction with what is to be found in his natural environment. Cultural (man-dominated) landscapes may be regarded as stages in complex processes. They are initiated by factors and influences which may be socio-economic, cultural or related to natural space, but which are merely intermediate stages within a framework of continuous development." (Source: BEGUSCH et al. 1995).

The landscape issue plays an important role in the "Future of the Alps" project. As an economic resource, it is relevant for regional value added chains. As we know from various inquiries, landscape is a key element for regional identity. In addition, landscape is crucial for biodiversity and nature protection. Finally, we have learned that landscape – as it was in the past, and as it could be like it the future – is a very useful communication tool for participatory development procedures. Landscape is a topic everybody can talk about – in every day language. This can be a key for a better understanding of complex situations and interrelations.
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Further Readings & Links

FAVRY (2004)
Summary of the REGALP project, dealing with regional development and cultural landscape change in the Alps