Development Trends in the Alps


Key Issues

taken from PFEFFERKORN et. al.(2005), p. 199ff.

The Challenge of Polarisation

The spatial structure of the Alps is characterised by a complex, small-scale mosaic of different development types. Over the past 30 years there has been a significant polarisation between prosperous areas (alpine cities and agglomerations as well as major tourism areas) and less favoured areas (periurban and peripheral areas) in the Alps. Furthermore, the alpine space is closely connected to the surrounding areas. Nearby metropolitan areas such as Lyon, Turin, Milan, Vienna and Munich exert a strong influence on adjacent alpine regions, causing suburbanisation and the loss of functions by smaller inner-alpine cities.

Changes in the alpine cultural landscape have been characterised by high land consumption for development on the one hand, and extensification of land use and marginalisation on the other. In urban agglomerations where many demands on land use have to be met, as well as in tourist centres, new infrastructures and settlement development have imposed a heavy strain on landscapes and on sensitive mountain ecosystems. A polarisation trend can also be observed in agricultural land use: While favoured agricultural sites have been used at high intensity and simultaneously had to compete against settlement development, less favoured sites have lain fallow or been re-forested. Several periurban and peripheral areas are facing job losses, a reduction in basic services, and a declining population.

Regional Development and Accessibility

Increases in accessibility due to the upgrading of transport infrastructures have been a major driving force behind regional development and cultural landscape change in the Alps. Increasing accessibility has expanded the range of action of individuals and enterprises, thereby changing patterns of land use. The accessibility of alpine centres (transport infrastructure hubs) has improved at a higher rate than in the periphery, and this trend will continue in the future. The average level of accessibility in the Alps will increase by 150% between 1995 and 2020, whereas the accessibility of transport hubs in central areas will increase by 500% or even more. However, the economic prosperity of a region does not depend on a high level of accessibility alone. Improving connections between weak regions and nearby strong centres does not necessarily help to mobilise the potential inherent in of the weak region, and may even increase the weak regionís dependence (see Tutorial "Governance Capacity").

The Alps in the Year 2020

We can assume that the gap between prosperous central areas and marginalised peripheral areas will grow larger over the next few years, and that nearby metropolitan areas will gain more and more influence on the Alps. In this scenario, the Alps of 2020 be characterised by intensification of land use on the one hand and abandonment and reforestation on the other hand. If future policies will be strongly oriented towards sustainable development, polarisation effects will be attenuated, but the general polarisation trend will not change.

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