Open sessions > S.8 – Rethinking Traditional Vertical Land Use in European Mountain Areas

Authors can submit papers directly on PESCRL website by April 9 (section: 'Submit a communication'). Submission requires a title, a 2,000 signs abstract, 5 keywords as well as one contact information and the institutional attachment of all authors. Abstracts and presentations should be made in English. The abstracts will be fully refereed by the program committee and the accepted ones will notified by April 24. Some sessions might require full papers before PESCRL event in September.

S.8 – Rethinking Traditional Vertical Land Use in European Mountain Areas

Chair – Prof. Dr. Rolf Peter Tanner, PHBern – University of Teacher Education, Institute for Upper Secondary Education, Berne, Switzerland. PD Dr. Oliver Bender, Austrian Academy of Sciences, Institute for Interdisciplinary Mountain Research, Innsbruck, Austria

Abstract: All over Europe, landscapes of mountain areas are shaped not only by horizontal patterns but even more by the verticality of land use. Today, in most regions, the traditional way of exploiting the resources of the upper altitudinal zones is at stake. These areas are either increasingly abandoned (and often converted into protected areas) or subject to non-traditional (over)exploitation, which finds its expression in tourism facilities, transport infrastructures or hydroelectric-power plants.

In his monograph ‘Die Alpen’, Werner Bätzing describes a tendency of decomposition of agrarian land use in the Alps, towards intensification in favourable and extensification in unfavourable areas (Bätzing 2015). Most of the upper altitudinal zones of mountain ranges belong to the latter category. Throughout the Alps, in all altitudinal zones, this path leads towards a structure of large, mostly unused areas (Alpine Brache = ‘alpine fallow’, Diener et al. 2005) with isolated patches of intensively used tourism resorts, amenity settlements (Bender, Kantscheider 2012) and strip cities along the main transport routes. Contrary to Diener et al. and other authors (i.e. Birkenhauer 2003), who favour this development, Bätzing speaks for the concept of ausgewogene Doppelnutzung (‘well-balanced double utilisation’), combining external place-based utilisation (hydropower production, tourism), internal place-based utilisation of the local potential (traditional handicraft, local agricultural production) and ubiquitous, non-place-based utilisation (any economic sector which requires no specific location factors).

The higher altitudinal belts are most affected by these processes, which can be described and analysed by the geographical base concept of ‘Change’ (Taylor 2011). At first glance, the following simple questions emerge: What was different in the past and why? In which way and to which extent has vertical land use changed? What could be different in the future and which opportunities are desirable? The special session aims at covering the following issues: 

  • What are the different traditional vertical land use systems in different mountain ranges of Europe? What influences the different ways? Are there analogies or homologies?
  • What is left of the traditional systems in terms of current land use and of more ‘palimpsestic’ remains? Which of these remains merit protection and possibly a re-commodification?
  • Are there still possibilities in European mountain areas to (re)activate traditional ways of production and to commodify such products?
  • Are there any new ways for the utilisation of the higher altitudinal zones


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