The Alps: a region under pressure
The Alps are home to around 14 million inhabitants within an area of 190,000 km², but population density varies hugely from one region to the next. There is a clear distinction between the built-up valley floors and rural areas, which tend to be more isolated or at higher altitudes.
The Alps are subject to many pressures linked to transport (especially road transport), increasing urbanisation, urban sprawl, abandoned farmland and a gradual rural exodus, the winter sports industry, mass tourism, more intensive farming in the valleys and desertification in the mountains, declining biodiversity and climate change.
The pressures on the Alps as a whole obviously also affect the protected areas, particularly the consequences of climate change.
So there are now new issues to be addressed: developing soft mobility options within and for getting to the protected areas, establishing a cross-border Alpine ecological network, supporting ecologically-friendly construction and renovation techniques, realigning the economy (particularly in terms of services and agricultural produce), supporting quality farming practices that respect the environment, managing water resources, combatting climate change...
The role of the Alpine protected areas
The protected areas are both a reference point and a laboratory. They have been able to experiment with new ideas for creating a more sustainable way of life for rural mountain regions.
Thus experimentation, innovation and sharing good practices and lessons learned at an international level is essential for the protected areas.