The Alpine Ecological Network
The Alps are the largest natural region left in Europe and therefore of extraordinary importance for biodiversity. But the Alps are also home to 14 million people and one of the most visited areas in the world. This is not without impact on biodiversity. Habitat loss and fragmentation, climate change, changes of agricultural practices and pollution count among the most important reasons for biodiversity loss and landscape destruction of the Alps.
The creation of a functioning ecological network in the Alps can contribute to conserve the extraordinary rich alpine diversity. Work has already been started. Three closely linked initiatives are working together in implementing such an ecological network: the platform “ecological network” of the Alpine Convention, the Ecological Continuum Initiative started by four active alpine network organizations and the ECONNECT project of 16 partners.
Joint efforts focussing on the Alpine massif as a whole are contributing directly to a very concrete application of an international treaty, the Alpine Convention, with its protocol on the protection of the natural environment. With their common activities, the Alps have become a core element of European biodiversity: equivalently to the “Green Belt” along the former Iron Curtain, the Alps constitute the heart of a second “European Green Belt”, ranging West to East from the Cantabrian mountains in Spain to the Carpathians. First contacts have been taken with neighbouring mountain ranges and some projects have been started to improve ecological connections between the Alps and their surroundings. These efforts will need to be further deepened so that it will be possible for animals and plants to migrate from the Alps to neighbouring mountain ranges: to the French Central massif and the Pyrenees, to the Jura, to the Apennines and to the Carpathians.