The Alps – a biodiversity hotspot

The Alps span eight countries, from the Mediterranean shores of Southern France to Slovenia. With summits above 4000 meters and an area of 250 000 km² the Alps are the most important mountain chain in Central Europe. Because of the great climatic differences the Alps shelter a large number of different natural and semi-natural habitats (from habitats of central Europe up to habitats of the high Nordic regions). They show a rich diversity of nature and landscape, which offers living place to a large number of plants and animals.

About 30 000 animal species and 13 000 plant species are found in the Alps. Several of these species are endemic to the Alps, they can only be found there. This extraordinary diversity of habitats and species of flora and fauna makes the Alps one of the most important regions for the preservation of biodiversity in central Europe.

The protected areas of the Alps give an important contribution to the protection and preservation of this biodiversity offering a refuge to wildlife. But the protection of wildlife and biodiversity can not only relay on the protected areas. Many animals need more space to live than these areas can provide. Scientists agree on the fact that only large and ecological adjoining areas can ensure a sustainable and long term protection of the biotic and abiotic nature resources of the Alps and guarantee the natural processes. This is why a large system of interconnected habitats should be created!

© C. Mordasini / Studio POP
© C. Mordasini / Studio POP

The traditional alpine landscape is a mosaic of different habitats. Well connected, natural, or near-natural, habitats provide a large number of species with shelter, food, and migration routes.
Human activities and the urbanisation of valley floors lead to habitat fragmentation and loss. The reduction of living space and biotope fragmentation negatively affect the chances of survival of many species.


The traditional alpine landscape is a mosaic of different biotopes. Meadows, woodlands, water courses and open prairie, but also farming infrastructure such as ditches, terraces and hedges. Incredibly varied spaces occur alongside one another and are inhabited by the most diverse species. In the course of a year or a life cycle, the different elements of the landscape provide animals with shelter or food, as well as reproduction and wintering sites. During their migrations they have to overcome various obstacles including busy roads, man-made structures to control waterways and areas of intensive agriculture. Therefore linking the different ranges and resources – thus making them accessible – is of key importance for the survival of populations and species.

Alpine biodiversity

AndreasHollinger.jpg© C. Pueschner/







© C. Pueschner/Zeitenspiegel, Herfried Marek, Helmut Kudrnovsky, Helga Schmadel/,Toni Kerschbaumer, Andreas Hollinger