When Men and Mountains Meet; UNESCO Ecology Projects in the Alps

By Schaller, Jorg | UNESCO Courier, February 1987 | Go to article overview

When Men and Mountains Meet; UNESCO Ecology Projects in the Alps


Schaller, Jorg, UNESCO Courier


When men and mountains meet

THE aim of Unesco's Man and theBiosphere (MAB) Project 6 in the Alpine region is to reveal the impact of interrelationships between economic activities, land use and ecology and to identify and describe those processes which jeopardize the long-term, sustained protection of the mountain region as a living space, an area of economic activity and a recreation zone.

The research fields and major problemareas were defined by MAB experts in 1973 as human settlements at high altitudes, land use in the mountains, the impact of large-scale technical installations in mountain areas, and the effect of tourism and recreational activities on mountain ecosystems.

Out of a total of 160 MAB 6 projectsthroughout the world, 85 concern research into the ecosystems of high mountain areas and 10 of these apply to the European Alps (see map). These investigations result from the successful integration of scientific disciplines into regionally co-ordinated research projects largely designed to meet practical requirements.

Thanks to close geographical proximity,many publications on the subject and personal contacts between MAB researchers in the Alpine region, an exchange of experiences has been possible which has led to a substantial improvement in research methodology and the transferability of methods.

Case studies on the impact of differentactivities on natural resources have been carried out in all MAB projects in the Alpine area. They relate essentially to the land-use impacts of agriculture, forestry, tourism and housing development, which are often in conflict with efforts to protect natural resources. Typical problem areas studied are mountain pastures, the effect of erosion on fertilization and cultivation at high altitudes, the protection and restoration of mountain forests, the disappearance of wild game populations, dying forests and the resultant problems such as landslides, reafforestation, the negative effect of traffic, damage to vegetation, the massive impact of summer and winter tourism (walking and skiing), as well as the aesthetic impact of changes in methods of cultivation or the introduction of infrastructural equipment for tourism. …

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