Protected Areas & Sustainable Regional Development


Protected Areas and Biodiversity

Grosses Walsertal protected area: The true value of biodiversity is inestimable (Source: CIPRA).
In general the Alps have a lot more to offer in the way of biological diversity than the lowlands. That is because of their many ecological niches deriving from a vertical rise of over 3000 m, their varied topography and extreme differences of climate in such a compact area, and also the effects of traditional methods of agriculture.
The Alps are not only home to one third of the European flora but also to 400 unique plant species like the Triglav gentian, glacier pink or Rhaetian poppy. In the last one hundred years, however, there has been a rapid decline in biodiversity, and the rate of species decline has exploded further in the last few years. To counter this development, CIPRA is calling for protected areas and other areas of high biological diversity to be networked through a system of ecological corridors. In addition, the variety of the species and ecological functionality must be preserved and promoted outside of the protected areas, too.
Further Readings & Links

ALPARC (2000)
Biodiversity in Protected Areas. A short information leaflet on protected areas and biodiversity.

WWF (2005)
The Alpine Ecoregion represent one of the richest biodiversity hot spots in Europe – this document, prepared by the WWF, describes the Ecoregion Conservation Plan for the Alps.

Insufficient Research Into Biodiversity

The protection of popular and photogenic animal species like the golden eagle and bearded vulture in the Hohe Tauern National Park generates a keen response in the media and is an incentive for many nature lovers (Source: M. KROPAC).

The quantifiability and evaluation of biological diversity is a pressing problem for the scientific community. According to a recent poll, 96% of all protected areas worldwide operate a monitoring system for biodiversity or are about to install one, but the methods used to date have only been a partial success.
According to the team of experts commissioned by CIPRA, Natura 2000 – the protection area system for endangered species of flora and fauna and rare biotopes in the European Union – is a case in point. Although Natura 2000 sets a high standard for protected areas and monitoring, it pays too little attention to the special situation of the high mountains.
Many unique Alpine species of plants, for example, have not even been catalogued. The protection of flagship species, i.e. especially popular and photogenic animal species like the golden eagle and bearded vulture in the Hohe Tauern National Park, generates a keen response in the media and is an incentive for many nature lovers, but it has little scientific relevance for the ecological status of the area as a whole.
The BRIM system (Biosphere Reserve Integrated Monitoring), on the other hand, is based on a broad scientific and socio-economic approach but practical implementation has so far been limited. Further research is necessary if we are to find concrete answers to the question of the extent to which protected areas contribute to the preservation of biodiversity.

Preservation of the Natural & Cultural Landscape in the Hohe Tauern National Park

The Hohe Tauern National Park, which was founded in 1981 as the first national park in Austria, covers large areas of the three Austrian provinces of Carinthia, Salzburg and the Tyrol. The park comprises unspoilt Alpine landscapes with glaciers, rock and scree, waterfalls, natural mountain meadows and forests, and the high-level pastures that have been managed by mountain farmers for centuries. A walk through the various vegetation zones from the valley floor to the 3000 m high peaks offers an insight into the biodiversity of the Alps.
At the beginning of the 1990s, attention turned to protection for the cultural landscape in addition to the protection of nature. The national park authorities mapped and evaluated the areas of extensive management that are of value in terms of landscape protection. A regional association was established to organise compensation payments to farmers applying extensive management practices – a new form of subsidy for agriculture. In the region of the national park in Carinthia, financial support is now provided for sustainable agriculture on a total of 6,000 hectares of land as a buffer zone surrounding the strictly protected core of the park.

The Hohe Tauern National Park is the oldest and also the biggest national park in Austria. It has great appeal thanks to its biological diversity and natural beauty, which are protected by a policy of green tourism with appropriate rates of growth (Source: Nationalpark Hohe Tauern Kärnten).

Landscape Protection and Value-Added go Together

In the summer of 2003 the national park management performed a visitor census. With 16 percent, the proportion of visitors who said they had come solely because of the national park was surprisingly high. For another 34%, the park's existence was a further incentive in addition to the main purpose of the visit, namely "walking" or "recreation". This potential has been recognised by many hotels, mountain lodges and restaurants, and the national park website now lists three dozen partner businesses. The offering includes organic produce from the national park area as well as accommodation, guided walks and other green tourism amenities. The restaurants affiliated to the Hohe Tauern National Park Inns scheme serve creative dishes based on local organic beef in a spirit of responsibility for regional farming.
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ALPARC (2000)
A short document on the role of protected areas for biodiversity conservation from different staff members of alpine protected areas.