Journal article

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

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.


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