/ ©: Yannick Andrea / WWF-Switzerland

Threats to Alpine nature

Habitat loss and fragmentation are the major threats to Alpine biodiversity. Spreading settlements, unsustainable farming, road networks, and river dams are the main culprits.

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 / ©: WWF European Alpine Programme
© WWF European Alpine Programme
Urbanisation: The expansion of urban centres is threatening the very last natural relics in Alpine lowland areas.  The easily accessible valleys of the Rhône, Rhine, Inn, Adige/Etsch, and other major rivers have already lost most of their biodiversity value due to urban sprawl.

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 / ©: WWF European Alpine Programme
© WWF European Alpine Programme
TrafficThe dense road and rail networks in these valleys exacts a heavy toll through space-eating traffic infrastructure, noise, and air pollution. It is also a leading cause of habitat fragmentation constituting a major barrier for Alpine species.

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 / ©: WWF European Alpine Programme
© WWF European Alpine Programme
Tourism: A top industry in the Alps, tourism is a major driver of urbanisation. Large tourist resorts have an area consumption rate that is far greater than that of a non-tourist community. This is especially problematic for remote Alpine regions which would otherwise be safe from urban sprawl.

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 / ©: WWF European Alpine Programme
© WWF European Alpine Programme
AgricultureWith increasing industrialisation and globalisation, traditional land management practices are no longer economically feasible. As a result, remote farming locations are being abandoned while the more favourable zones are intensified. This trend has led to a decrease in biodiversity as species rich mountain pastures are either converted into heavily fertilized ‘green deserts’ or overgrown by forests.

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 / ©: WWF European Alpine Programme
© WWF European Alpine Programme
Freshwater: Alpine water ways have been heavily altered and degraded. Riparian areas, which regulate floods, have been cut off from rivers and converted to agricultural fields or urban areas. River straightening and hydroelectric dams destroy freshwater habitats: fish spawning grounds are wiped out and migratory routes are cut off. This has devastating effects for the unique and specialised freshwater organisms.

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 / ©: WWF European Alpine Programme
© WWF European Alpine Programme
Climate Change: Global warming will impact mountain areas in a particularly severe way. Changes in rain- and snowfall patterns are predicted, along with an increase in the frequency and intensity of extreme weather-related events, such as floods and avalanches. Over the last century global warming has caused all Alpine glaciers to recede and has led to an upward migration of Alpine plants.

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