/ ©: © Anton Vorauer / WWF-Canon

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-Canon
© Michèle Dépraz / WWF-Canon

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 - and at the international level - through the 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 immediately necessary.

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