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	© © Anton Vorauer / WWF

The European Alps

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Location of the European Alps
© WWF European Alpine Programme
The Alps – one of the last remaining areas with truly wild places in central Europe – are remote. They are breathtaking. They are beautiful. They are one of the last strongholds of nature.
Forming a massive arc from Nice to Vienna, the Alps are also one of the largest and highest mountain ranges in the world. Dynamic natural processes continuously reshape the landscape and are the driving force for biological diversity.
 
But even the mightiest alpine peaks are not safe from the effects of urbanisation and climate change.

Natural paradise

Towering over Europe, the Alps represent one of the continent's last wild spaces.
Despite centuries of human settlement and activity, pristine wilderness can still be found throughout the region. 

Spruce, fir, and pine trees dominate large portions of montane forest. Deciduous tree species, like oak and beech, continue to cover large areas. Wild flowers blanket many alpine meadows.

Red deer, ibex, chamoix, marmots and other species can be found climbing high up in the mountains. And large carnivores – wolf, bear and lynx – are slowly returning after almost being totally wiped out from hunting.

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	© Wild Wonders of Europe /Grzegorz Lesniewski / WWF
© Wild Wonders of Europe /Grzegorz Lesniewski / WWF

Rich Traditions

The natural wealth characterising the Alps also reflects the historical influence of human presence in the area.
The rich diversity of cultures, languages, and traditions in the Alps has resulted in a unique cultural landscape.

Traditional farming practices dating back to Neolithic times have in fact added to biodiversity. For instance, extensively farmed Alpine meadows located at 1800 to 2200 metres above sea level support up to 80 species of plants per hundred square metres.

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	© Michèle Dépraz / WWF
© Michèle Dépraz / WWF

Fragile Environment

The Alps face a number of major threats – from pollution and habitat loss to mass tourism and the impacts of climate change.
Even as one of Europe's richest natural areas, the Alps are one of the most intensively exploited mountain regions in the world.

Human pressures have already damaged the unique biodiversity characterising most Alpine valleys through strong urbanisation trends and intensified agriculture.

Now, even the most remote natural areas of the Alps are threatened as trends towards mass tourism become more prevalent.

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	© Yannick Andrea / WWF-Switzerland
© Yannick Andrea / WWF-Switzerland

The European Alpine Programme

Effective conservation of the Alps at the ecoregional level will require strong collaboration between all Alpine countries.
WWF works for the protection of the Alps at the national level - through its national offices. The national and transnational work in the Alpine countries is coordinated through the WWF European Alpine Programme.

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	© Fritz Pölking / WWF
© Fritz Pölking / WWF

What We Do

WWF is working to protect the natural and cultural heritage of the Alps through transnational collaboration.
Through an ecoregional approach to conservation, the WWF European Alpine Programme (EALP) is helping to save Alpine nature in its entirety. Solutions are concentrated on those areas that are most important for conservation: the Alpine gemstones and their corresponding connection areas. The EALP has also identified ‘priority issues’ in the Alps for which conservation strategies are crucial.

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Nature knows no boundaries, neither do the problems it faces. In order to protect Alpine nature in its entirety, a comprehensive approach is needed.


A globally important region 

The Alps are one of the richest biodiversity hotspots in Europe. They are also one of the most exploited ecosystems worldwide. Given this, it comes as no surprise that the Alps were selected as a region of global importance for biodiversity conservation. The Global 200 Initiative of WWF recognizes the Alps as one of the most important ecoregions for conserving a major proportion of the global biodiversity for future generations. 
 

European Alpine Programme

International cooperation across the Alps is key to saving Alpine nature. The legal framework provided by the Alpine Convention and the creation of the Natura 2000 network have set the stage for pan-Alpine conservation action.

Now, four WWF national alpine organizations (WWF Austria, WWF France, WWF Italy, and WWF Switzerland) are closely working together under the umbrella of the European Alpine Programme (EALP) to implement a comprehensive and transboundary conservation strategy in the Alps.

By adopting the ecoregional approach, the WWF offices shift towards integrated, large-scale and long-term conservation, supporting the objectives of the Alpine Convention and the Convention on Biological Diversity.
 

Our Goals 

The EALP is promoting actions in collaboration with its partners to bring innovation into the preservation and sustainable use of biodiversity in the Alps. We accomplish this by:
 
1) considering biodiversity from an Alps-wide perspective
2) identifying biodiversity hotspots, where conservation measures will be most effective
3) enhancing connectivity between natural areas to allow for the freedom of movement for animals in the Alps.

Our Vision 

The EALP and its partners have developed a biodiversity vision for the Alps. This vision identifies the areas most important for biodiversity conservation in the Alps - the Alpine gemstones - and the natural corridors that connect them.

WWF is acting at both the pan-Alpine and local levels to save the Alpine gemstones and to ensure the existence of an intact ecological network. Protecting and restoring both the cultural and natural elements of these areas will be key to their protection.
 
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Contact

The WWF European Alpine Programme (EALP) aligns and coordinates WWF's conservation work across the Alps ecoregion, implemented by the four national WWF organisations: WWF Austria, WWF France, WWF Italy, and WWF Switzerland.
Walter Wagner, EALP representative, WWF Switzerland, EALP coordinator
Tel.: +41 44 297 22 52; Email: walter.wagner@wwf.ch

Bernhard Kohler, EALP representative, WWF Austria
Tel.: +43 1 488 17 281; Email: bernhard.kohler@wwf.at

Jean-Christoph Poupet, EALP representative, WWF France
Tel.: +33 478 27 39 95; Email: jcpoupet@wwf.fr

Mauro Belardi, EALP representative, WWF Italy
Email: mbelardi@wwfnet.org

Elisabeth Soetz, EALP Freshwater Coordinator
Tel.: +43 512 57 35 34 304; Email: elisabeth.soetz@wwf.at

Gabor von Bethlenfalvy, EALP Large Carnivores Coordinator
Tel.: +41 44 297 23 56; Email: gabor.vonbethlenfalvy@wwf.ch
 

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