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Sustainable Land Use in Mountain Regions Under Global Change: Synthesis Across Scales and Disciplines

Robert Huber, Swiss Federal Institute for Forest, Snow and Landscape Research WSL
Andreas Rigling, Swiss Federal Institute for Forest, Snow and Landscape Research WSL
Peter Bebi, WSL Institute for Snow and Avalanche Research SLF
Fridolin Simon Brand, Natural and Social Science Interface, Department of Environmental Systems Science, ETH Zurich
Simon Briner, Agri-food and Agri-environmental Economics Group, Department of Environmental Systems Science, ETH Zurich
Alexandre Buttler, Ecole Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne EPFL, School of Architecture, Civil and Environmental Engineering ENAC, Laboratory of ecological systems ECOS; Université de Franche-Comté-CNRS
Ché Elkin, Forest Ecology, Department of Environmental Systems Science, ETH Zurich
François Gillet, Université de Franche-Comté-CNRS; Ecole Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne EPFL, School of Architecture, Civil and Environmental Engineering ENAC
Adrienne Grêt-Regamey, Spatial and Landscape Development, Department of Civil, Environmental and Geomatic Engineering, ETH Zurich
Christian Hirschi, Environmental Policy and Economics, Department of Environmental Systems Science, ETH Zurich
Heike Lischke, Swiss Federal Institute for Forest, Snow and Landscape Research WSL
Roland Werner Scholz, Natural and Social Science Interface, Department of Environmental Systems Science, ETH Zurich
Roman Seidl, Natural and Social Science Interface, Department of Environmental Systems Science, ETH Zurich
Thomas Spiegelberger, Ecole Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne EPFL, School of Architecture, Civil and Environmental Engineering ENAC, Laboratory of ecological systems ECOS; Irstea, Research Unit Mountain Ecosystems
Ariane Walz, Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research PIK; Institute for Earth and Environmental Science, University of Potsdam
Willi Zimmermann, Environmental Policy and Economics, Department of Environmental Systems Science, ETH Zurich
Harald Bugmann, Forest Ecology, Department of Environmental Systems Science, ETH Zurich

DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.5751/ES-05499-180336

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Abstract

Mountain regions provide essential ecosystem goods and services (EGS) for both mountain dwellers and people living outside these areas. Global change endangers the capacity of mountain ecosystems to provide key services. The Mountland project focused on three case study regions in the Swiss Alps and aimed to propose land-use practices and alternative policy solutions to ensure the provision of key EGS under climate and land-use changes. We summarized and synthesized the results of the project and provide insights into the ecological, socioeconomic, and political processes relevant for analyzing global change impacts on a European mountain region. In Mountland, an integrative approach was applied, combining methods from economics and the political and natural sciences to analyze ecosystem functioning from a holistic human-environment system perspective. In general, surveys, experiments, and model results revealed that climate and socioeconomic changes are likely to increase the vulnerability of the EGS analyzed. We regard the following key characteristics of coupled human-environment systems as central to our case study areas in mountain regions: thresholds, heterogeneity, trade-offs, and feedback. Our results suggest that the institutional framework should be strengthened in a way that better addresses these characteristics, allowing for (1) more integrative approaches, (2) a more network-oriented management and steering of political processes that integrate local stakeholders, and (3) enhanced capacity building to decrease the identified vulnerability as central elements in the policy process. Further, to maintain and support the future provision of EGS in mountain regions, policy making should also focus on project-oriented, cross-sectoral policies and spatial planning as a coordination instrument for land use in general.

Key words

adaptive management; climate change; ecosystem services; experiments; interdisciplinary research; land-use change; modeling; transdisciplinary research
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Ecology and Society. ISSN: 1708-3087