Ecosystem services and federalism: a case study of Switzerland

A fundamental element of a federated state is the division of power between a central government and the component states. Switzerland is a federation consisting of twenty-six sovereign states named canton. Each canton has its own government and parliament, leading to a decentralized public political power. Public policies with a spatial incidence are within the jurisdiction of the Confederation, cantons or municipalities. The vertical division of competences varies between policies and between cantons. This study focuses on land crop rotation areas (LCRAs) to assess the impact of federalism on the preservation of ecosystem services. The concept of LCRAs originates from the Wahlen Plan of 1940, which aimed to double the surface of cultivated land to ensure food self-sufficiency if imports would stop. The criteria applied to define LCRAs are heterogeneous between cantons, and remain unchecked. Slope, altitude and land quality are among numerous criteria used to build cantonal inventories of LCRAs. Various polices have been implemented since the creation of LCRAs, mostly economical to sustain and to intensify agricultural production. However, conflicts between LCRAs and environmental interests such as ecological compensation, watercourse restoration or flood protection affect the provision of ecosystem services (ES), which are the contributions of ecosystems to human well-being. LCRAs provide the service of food production, but their purpose is questioned as Switzerland relies increasingly on food imports and LCRAs are sometimes converted to building zones, further impairing the provision of ES. The current literature focuses largely on ex-ante assessment of ecosystem services. However, this would not allow differentiating the differing implementation strategies of cantons, and explicitly quantify their impact on the provision of ecosystem services. In this contribution, we will demonstrate how an ex-post assessment may be more relevant to detect potential gaps in the implementation of policies in a federal state. The objective is to relate specific actions to a specific impact at the canton level based on empirical evidence, and to incorporate spatio-temporal dynamics that are critical in land-use planning. It can inform decision-makers about future sustainable land-use, and foster the redistribution of resource exploitation, such as food production, to optimize the sustainable provision of other ecosystem services.

Presented at:
2017 International Conference on Sustainable Development and Green Technology, Nanhua University, Taiwan, November, 24-26, 2017

 Record created 2017-11-28, last modified 2018-09-13

Rate this document:

Rate this document:
(Not yet reviewed)