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Participative Spatial Scenario Analysis for Alpine Ecosystems

Kohler, Marina, Stotten, Rike, Steinbacher, Melanie, Leitinger, Georg, Tasser, Erich, Schirpke, Uta, Tappeiner, Ulrike, Schermer, Markus
Environmental management 2017 v.60 no.4 pp. 679-692
community development, consumer behavior, cultural landscape, ecosystem services, ecosystems, farmers, farming systems, grasslands, humans, income, land use and land cover maps, land use change, models, stakeholders, subsidies, Austria
Land use and land cover patterns are shaped by the interplay of human and ecological processes. Thus, heterogeneous cultural landscapes have developed, delivering multiple ecosystem services. To guarantee human well-being, the development of land use types has to be evaluated. Scenario development and land use and land cover change models are well-known tools for assessing future landscape changes. However, as social and ecological systems are inextricably linked, land use-related management decisions are difficult to identify. The concept of social-ecological resilience can thereby provide a framework for understanding complex interlinkages on multiple scales and from different disciplines. In our study site (Stubai Valley, Tyrol/Austria), we applied a sequence of steps including the characterization of the social-ecological system and identification of key drivers that influence farmers’ management decisions. We then developed three scenarios, i.e., “trend”, “positive” and “negative” future development of farming conditions and assessed respective future land use changes. Results indicate that within the “trend” and “positive” scenarios pluri-activity (various sources of income) prevents considerable changes in land use and land cover and promotes the resilience of farming systems. Contrarily, reductions in subsidies and changes in consumer behavior are the most important key drivers in the negative scenario and lead to distinct abandonment of grassland, predominantly in the sub-alpine zone of our study site. Our conceptual approach, i.e., the combination of social and ecological methods and the integration of local stakeholders’ knowledge into spatial scenario analysis, resulted in highly detailed and spatially explicit results that can provide a basis for further community development recommendations.