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In the last 50 years, traditional Alpine farming changed radically: remote farming locations were abandoned while the more favourable zones were intensified. This trend has led to a decrease in biodiversity as species rich mountain pastures are either converted into heavily fertilised ‘green deserts’ or overgrown by forests.

Intensively farmed areas are most common in broad valleys and on easily accessible slopes. The negative impacts associated with this kind of farming are mainly due to the massive use of fertilizers, grading, and drainage. It is also the source of homogenisation and monoculture crops.

Conversely, the traditional labour-intensive farming areas, where different agricultural products are produced over small surfaces, are being wiped off the map as the older farming generations disappear and alpine pastures are abandoned.

This often entails a loss of biodiversity, as species-rich meadows are replaced by a thick bush cover and eventually, completely erased by the return of the forest.

In the upper reaches, a small number of big farms with very large numbers of cattle convert mountain meadows and pastures into heavily fertilized ‘green deserts’.

What We Do

The European Alpine Programme coordinates WWF's conservation work across the Alps. Check out Our Solutions page to read more about what WWF is doing to conserve Alpine nature.

The new face of Agriculture

Ticino canton 
© Yannick Andrea / WWF-Switzerland

Agriculture in Alpine valleys is being intensified while more traditional forms of farming are abandoned.

Infographic for Alpine ecoregion: dry meadows.
© Infographic for Alpine ecoregion: dry meadows. © WWF European Alpine Programme

Species rich mountain pastures are either converted into heavily fertilised 'green deserts' or overgrown by forests.