Ecological effects of land-use changes in the Alps:
Agriculture in the Alpine region has been changing fundamentally since the middle of the 20th century. Only 70 years ago, farmers still used the few agriculturally favorable areas in the valleys as arable land. The hay was obtained from steep valley slopes and high-elevation mountain meadows. The cattle grazed on alpine pastures during the summer. Today this has changed: Many areas in the valley bottoms are now used to grow fruits and wine, arable farming has largely disappeared at the expense of intensive grassland. Many extensively used hay meadows and alpine pastures have been abandoned. All these developments have ecological consequences – positive as well as negative ones. By presenting and discussing the land-use related impacts on a total of 47 ecosystem and landscape features, this article provides an overview of the current state of knowledge. Among others, the effects on soil, living organisms, production, forests, water quality and quantity, as well as potential risk and landscape quality are addressed.