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© Yannick Andrea / WWF-Switzerland
The Rhaetic Triangle
The Rhaetic Triangle area in Austria, Italy, and Switzerland is one of 24 areas identified as being most important for conserving biodiversity across the Alps.

Natural value

Much of the region is characterised by a unique natural landscape and a diversity of cultures. Important protected areas, including the Stelvio and Swiss national parks, are found in the Rhaetic Triangle. The area is also home to the western capercaillie (Tetrao urogallus), a strictly protected species in Switzerland, and is prime habitat for bears, wolves, and lynx, although these species do not yet call the area home.

  • Lower Engadine: The combination of a special climate and morphology have made the Lower Engadine in the Swiss canton Graubuenden a hotspot for biodiversity. The distinct mosaic of natural and extensively farmed areas is an additional source of the region’s rich diversity of life. Steep, south-facing slopes with high sun and wind exposure create a hot and dry microclimate, perfect for heat-loving species such as reptiles, butterflies, grasshoppers, and wild bees. The area also plays an important role for the return of the brown bear to the Alps.  
  • Stelvio / Stilfserjoch National Park: The Stelvio/Stilfserjoch National Park includes a combination of both untouched Alpine territory and cultivated areas. The coexistence of different ecosystems – from wetlands to detrital areas, calcareous to siliceous soils – provides many different habitats to a variety of species. 
  • Swiss National Park: The Swiss National Park is Switzerland’s only national park. It is an important site for the bearded vulture (Gypaetus barbatus) – once extinct in the Alps – which has been re-introduced to the area.

Threats to nature

One of the major threats to biodiversity in the region are changes to the cultural landscape. The natural treasures associated with traditionally managed areas - e.g. dry meadows and pastures - are disappearing as less productive and unfavourable areas are either abandoned or the management intensified. Many of the species-rich meadows and pastures of the Alps have already disappeared. Protecting the cultural landscape in the Rhaetic Triangle will thus be an important contribution to saving biodiversity in the Alps. 

What we do 

Together with its partners, WWF is working to protect the natural and cultural heritage of the Rhaetic Triangle area. As a first step, WWF is conducting a biodiversity assessment of the area, focussing on the identification of important habitats for biodiversity.

WWF is also involved in a number of bottom-up approaches to biodiversity conservation in the area in close collaboration with local actors and authorities. Specific themes include the promotion of large carnivore acceptance and the protection and restoration of dry meadow habitats. The projects place a special emphasis on incorporating the human dimension in their strategies.

Projects in the area

Facts and Figures

The size of this area is about 3,610 km2

Elevation ranges from 915 to 4037 m

The area is home to the Swiss National Park - Switzerland's only national park - and to the Stelvio / Stilfser Joch National Park

Photo Gallery

Detail on the wing of the Apollo butterfly (Parnassius apollo), Austria. 
© Wild Wonders of Europe /Niall Benvie / WWF

Over 1000 species of butterflies have been recorded in the Rhaetic Triangle.

Meager meadow habitat, Grisons 
© Yannick Andrea / WWF-Switzerland

About 90% of species-rich meadows and pastures in Switzerland have disappeared since the 1940s.

Meager meadow habitat, Espersette (Onobrychis viciifolia), Grisons © Yannick Andrea / WWF-Switzerland

Biodiversity assessment: WWF is conducting a transnational biodiversity assessment of the Rhaetic Triangle area, focussing on the identification of important habitats for biodiversity. Conservation themes for the region will be selected based on the outcome of this analysis.

Emerald environment, Ardez, Graubuenden Canton
The Emerald network is an ecological network to conserve wild flora and fauna and their natural habitats of Europe, which was launched in 1998 by the Council of Europe as part of its work under the Convention on the Conservation of European Wildlife and Natural Habitats or Bern Convention that came into force on June 1, 1982. It is to be set up in each Contracting Party or observer state to the Convention. © Yannick Andrea / WWF-Switzerland

Connectivity: The Rhaetic Triangle was chosen as a pilot area by the Alpine Convention’s Ecological Network platform due to the area's active role in supporting sustainable development and ecological connectivity within the region. The ‘econnect’ project (for which WWF is a partner) is also using the Rhaetic Triangle as a pilot area to test the best methods for re-establishing connectivity with the help of the Pro Terra Engiadina foundation.

Brown bear trail, inauguration of brown bear theme trail, Switzerland © Anita Mazzetta / WWF-Switzerland

Bear acceptance: Through education and ecological tourism, WWF’s Ursina project aims to prepare both inhabitants and visitors for the return of the brown bear (Ursus arctos) to the Rhaetic Triangle area. Important bear management themes include the use of bear safe garbage bins and the protection of livestock and honey bee production. For more information on this project, visit the Ursina Project homepage.

Meager meadow habitat, near Sent, Grisons © Yannick Andrea / WWF-Switzerland

Species-rich meadows: The Rhaetic Triangle region is especially unique for hosting some of the Alps’ few remaining species-rich meadows. WWF is working together with its partners to protect this declining, yet ecologically valuable, habitat.