Promoting Long-Term Social-Ecological Research in mountains


BlueMount project background

With its approximate 29’000 km2 of mountains (>70% of the territory), Switzerland is a mountain country par excellence. The Alps in particular are home to many habitats of national importance, including mires, alluvial zones, dry meadows and pastures, and an exceptional number of species, including 600 species of flowering plants that occur exclusively there or have their primary range there. However, climate change, tourism activities, hydropower infrastructures and use, and the abandonment of remote meadows and pastures are some of the many factors putting Alpine habitats and their biodiversity under increasing pressure.

Some of the most critical data for quantifying such environmental changes and identifying their causes, for understanding social-ecological systems and predicting their trajectories, and for informing environmental policies and agendas are the time series provided by Long-Term (Social) Ecological Research (LT(S)ER) and monitoring programs. In Switzerland, long-term ecological monitoring and research is performed in 43 sites, of which 24 are listed as part of the official Swiss Long-term Ecological Network and eight are part of the Global Observation Research Initiative in Alpine Environments. Monitoring at federal level is performed through the Federal Office for the Environment with the Biodiversity Monitoring (BDM) program.

Besides a few cases, mountains and their social-ecological and environmental processes are largely under-represented in the Swiss LTER and generally understudied across all of Switzerland. Long-term changes in Switzerland’s mountains have never been assessed within a holistic and integrated framework that considers the entire elevation gradient, and no site has purposely been selected nor designed to specifically study and monitor the effects of drivers of change identified as relevant both from a societal and from an environmental policy and management point of view.

LTER sites in Switzerland. In yellow: Swiss-LTER sites; in red: Gloria sites; in green: other sites; in blue: sites managed by members of the Center for Interdisciplinary Mountain Research (CIMR). The square delimits the existing sites in the Alpes vaudoises et valaisannes. Global Mountain Biodiversity Assessment