Alpine Ecosystem Services - mapping, maintenance, management

Ecosystem Services – Alpine Concept

Throughout the past decade, the topic of ecosystem services (ES) has become extremely popular in research, resulting in a huge variety of definitions and terms. For example, ES are defined as benefits people obtain from ecosystems (MEA, 2005); or the direct and indirect contributions of ecosystems to human well-being (TEEB 2010), among others.

Just to name a few Alpine relevant ES: pure groundwater that we use as drinking water, Alpine grasslands and meadows that provide biomass, CO2 sequestration by Alpine forests, or recreation opportunities all contribute toward human well-being and provide essential ES.

The first Work Package (WP T1) of the AlpES project, managed by ifuplan (Institut für Umweltplanung und Raumentwicklung, Germany) aims to provide fundamental inputs on ES of the Alpine area in order to elaborate a common understanding of ES to be transformed into a transnational environmental governance model. The WP is divided into the following 5 activities: 1) Development of a common understanding of Alpine ES; 2) Analysis of national ES mapping/assessment approaches; 3) Analysis of national instruments that are suitable for integrating ES into regional environmental governance or decision making support; 4) Stakeholder involvement; and 5) Development of a harmonised ES mapping and assessment approach.

As the main goal of the AlpES project is to implement the ES concept in practical issues, such as management and planning, it is essential to establish a common understanding not only between the stakeholders and project partners (PP) but also within the AlpES partnership.

In order to harmonise the different approaches, ifuplan has prepared background information about the ES concept, mapping and assessment at EU level as well as several questionnaires to collect information from the different Alpine countries (Activity 1 and 2). The collected information on this will be actively used for the next project steps and integrated into the main output of the project: “Ecosystem services – Alpine concept” (Activity 5).

During the AlpES project meeting in Ljubljana, the PPs agreed on the eight most significant ES  for the Alps, and which will be analysed in more detail within project. At the moment the work is concentrated on the analysis of national instruments that can be helpful for the ES implementation (Activity 3) as well as on the establishment of a guideline for stakeholder involvements for all PPs (Activity 4).