Alpine farming in Austria, for nature, culture or economic need?


  • T. Wrbka
  • J. Peterseil
  • I. Schmitzberger
  • A. Stocker-Kiss


The paper explores the importance of alpine farming in Austria. Alpine landscapes have major shares of pristine landscapes but are also transformed by man into cultural landscapes. Alpine farming systems play an important role in sustaining biodiversity as the traditional land management is creating heterogeneity and niches which are habitats for many different species adapted to this situation. Climate change as well as global and European trends in agricultural policy leads to landscape changes, which have to be assessed in terms of ecological, social and economic impacts. Nature value, fragmentation and hemerobiotic state of landscapes are presented as indicators for a landscape assessment on different scales. Nature value reflects the relative importance of landscape for sustaining biodiversity and represents a tool for the formulation of further development strategies on the landscape-type scale applicable for landscape planning. The fragmentation of landscapes, as a major threat to biodiversity, is analysed on the landscape-type level by using the indicators ‘Influence by major traffic networks’ and ‘Remoteness’. Examples for alpine landscapes are given and the link to the occurrence of large predatory mammals is shown. The hemerobiotic state is used as an indicator at the landscape level to measure the human impact on habitats and landscape. It may play a central role in environmental reporting to politicians and to the public. Samples of the landscape structure and the distribution patterns of human influence on managed alpine landscapes are given.