The European Alps include a wealth of worldwide referred images of mountain habitats. This paper intends to assess the various activities developed in this mountain range over the last decades that have created both attractiveness and increased consideration with regard to environmental sensibility of mountain areas.
Observations are drawn from participation in various national and international research projects on European policies to cope with the specific production and development problems of mountains in different contexts. These include relevant policy instruments, the Alpine Convention as framework for sustainable development, the European Union’s transnational Alpine Space Programme and a host of local, regional and national initiatives and networks. The paper will explore approaches to secure commitment for comprehensive policy strategies with regard to future challenges and the potential to transfer experiences between mountain regions.
The most relevant observations in this regard are: First, activities are not limited to institutional development (of the Alpine Convention), but extended to the widely accepted framework of integrated approaches in national and regional policies, and the multiplication of local action. Second, many spheres of activities have elaborated over recent years, reflecting the concern to take account of the diversity and impact of global changes on mountain areas. And third, trans-national cooperation has nurtured similar approaches for mountain ranges in Europe (e.g. Carpathian Convention, Balkan etc.) and beyond (e.g. alternative model of Andean Community).
Despite the manifold activities in European mountain areas links between research and practitioners are at best emerging in some “hot spots”. Taking stock of best-practice at this stage might nevertheless induce important general conclusions for mountains in their search for adaptation to global change: The inclusion of local, non-government stakeholders, the cross-sectoral approach and an anticipation perspective towards development trends should be discussed as core elements of any mountain development strategy.