Managing ecosystem services in the Alpine Space cooperation area

When ecosystem services cross national borders, a transnational management framework is needed. In the Alpine Space Cooperation Area – encompassing diverse regions of France, Germany, Italy, Austria and Slovenia – this framework is being implemented via the AlpES project.

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Cultural ecosystem services in the Alps ©ALpES Cultural ecosystem services in the Alps ©ALpES

" The project developed a set of ecosystem services indicator maps providing comparable information on ES supply, demand and flow for the entire Alpine Space cooperation area. It also mobilised expert dialogues on the topic of ecosystem services with and among stakeholders in six different countries and nine regions across the Alpine arc. To our knowledge, this has not been done before, and we believe AlpES maps will provide a valuable basis for the integration of ecosystem services in decision-making and policies after the project’s end. "

AlpES LP team at Eurac Research, Institute for Alpine Environment

Mountain regions are an important provider of ecosystem services, which are recognised as one of the main pillars of a green economy and a key driver in the development of the Alpine region. Within the Alpine Space Cooperation Area, the intersection of socio-political boundaries means ecosystems often extend across national borders. This creates the challenge of implementing integrated management plans for the sustainable use of these transnational ecosystems.

To address this challenge, the AlpES project aims to provide a common framework for managing ecosystem services at different levels of governance – from the local to the transnational – throughout the Alpine Space region. To accomplish this, the project is providing stakeholders with an array of dedicated tools and capacity-building processes for understanding, valuing and managing ecosystem services.

Four core objectives

The AlpES project has four core objectives. First, by working directly with stakeholders, it aims to develop a shared Alpine ecosystem services concept. With this concept in hand, the project will then carry out mapping and assessment of the Alpine Space cooperation area’s ecosystem services.

Based on this exercise, the project will provide stakeholders with the results via an interactive web-based geographic information system (GIS). This will ensure a multi-level, cross-sectoral transfer of AlpES’s results to a maximum number of stakeholders via innovative, tailored and transferable learning tools and targeted activities.

Although a work in progress, the project has already made significant headway towards achieving its objectives. For example, the project developed an Alpine-specific framework for ecosystem services that focuses on defining and classifying ecosystem services and analyses past mapping studies and the potential of existing governance instruments. The project also mapped the supply, flow and demand of eight key Alpine ecosystem services at municipal levels for the entire Alpine Space cooperation area using selected indicators, which are available on the dedicated GIS.

Furthermore, the project has organised a number of events for stakeholders, along with training sessions on ecosystem services mapping and assessment. They also developed a capacity-building model that includes an e-learning platform, concept-specific one-day training units and transnational workshops.

Harmonised information

The AlpES project has compiled a set of harmonised information on the topic of ecosystem services for the Alpine Space cooperation area. Specifically, it has mapped and assessed the supply, flow and demand of eight relevant ecosystem services for more than 16 000 municipalities across the cooperation area. These maps, with the valuable background information collected in the AlpES reports and on the project’s wiki, represent a valuable foundation for further work on ecosystem services in the region.

Total investment and EU funding

Total investment for the project “Alpine Ecosystem Services: mapping, maintenance, management” is EUR 2 265 507, with the EU’s European Regional Development Fund contributing EUR 1 829 886 through the “Alpine Space” Operational Programme for the 2014-2020 programming period. The investment falls under the priority “Energy Union and Climate”.