The general context
In natural hazard management and disaster risk reduction worldwide, but especially in the Alpine Space, forests are increasingly considered equal to technical or civil engineering measures. Forests can lead to increase slope stability and reduce the risk to an acceptable level in many locations. Where forests are present, the implementations of technical measures for risk reduction are often redundant or cheaper. Beautiful examples are the numerous forests throughout the Alps that prevent the release of snow avalanches instead of expensive snow racks and the large scale afforestation in the late 19th century that nowadays prevent upslope erosion and sedimentation problems in the lower parts of the Alpine catchments.
Forest covers about 40% of the Alpine Space, thus the preservation and enhancement of the protective role of forests against natural risks are key to an efficient strategy for strengthening the liveability of the Alpine Space. The 6 Pan EU Ministerial Conferences on the Protection of Forest held since 1990, have all stressed the need for a common approach to value Forest Ecosystem Services (FES) as a basis for developing a Sustainable Forest Management. Although it is widely recognised that reduction of natural hazard risks is one of these FES, harmonised methods mapping this FES are currently not available.