Mountain Agriculture


Polarisation of the Landscape Development

The agro-structural change divides the development of the cultivated landscape into two different directions: On the one hand, it leads to the intensified cultivation of favourable areas and/or extensive cultivation. On the other hand, marginal productivity areas and/or areas that are hard to be cultivated mechanically become fallow (MACDONALD et al. 2000).The areas characterised by fallow land and extensive cultivation may be subject to the natural process of succession below the forest line and change into forest areas. The forest area in the central Swiss Alps increased by 9.1%, in the Southern Swiss Alps even by 9.8%, in the period between 1995 and 2007 (EIDG. FORSCHUNGSANSTALT WSL 2007and by 3% in Trentino since 1975 (CARRIERO & WOLYNSKI 2004).

Increase of forest area in Switzerland between 1995 and 2007 (Source: Eidg. Forschungsanstalt WSL 2007).
Furthermore, an intensified cultivation, especially combined with the input of nutrients, the use of pesticides and the transformation of farmland into machinable land will lead to ecological problems.
In this context, landscape features that are of interest from the viewpoint of natural protection, such as open orchard meadows, groves, hummocky meadows, mountain hay meadows, semi-dry grassland etc. are particularly endangered. The specialisation of farms leads to a decline in the number of diverse cultivation forms in a certain region and, consequently, to an increasingly monotonous landscape with a corresponding appearance and attractiveness.

Where mountain agriculture becomes unprofitable and farmers do not find any successors as in the the Val Onsernone in the North Italian Alps on the border to Switzerland, fields and meadows slowly change into forest (Source: M.Kropac).
Back To top Continue

Further Readings & Links

First results from the third Swiss Forest Inventory showing the increase of the forest area in Switzerland.