The theme of this year’s World Wildlife Day, “Forests and Livelihoods: Sustaining People and Planet,” is a fitting theme given the special role of mountain forests in the Alpine area!
Mountain forests are as much a feature of Alpine landscapes as the mountains themselves, covering around 40% of the territory of the Alpine Convention. Across this space, forests and wooded lands are characterised by their multifunctionality: they are not only home to rich biodiversity but also provide many ecosystem services including protection against natural hazards like rockfalls and avalanches as well as soil conservation and providing clean air. Forests also play an important role in climate change mitigation as they absorb and store carbon dioxide. In addition, Alpine forests have important economic and social functions, both as a source of employment as well as a space for recreation.
In recognition of these diverse roles, the Alpine Convention has made mountain forests a priority since the beginning. Already in the founding Framework Convention, the Alpine countries and the European Union committed “to preserve, reinforce and restore the role of forests.” Since the early years, the Convention has adopted a Protocol on Mountain Forests and two working groups – Mountain Forests Working Group (active from 2012-2019) and the current Mountain Agriculture and Mountain Forestry Working Group – have addressed the many functions of Alpine forests in their work.
Alpine forests play a crucial role in the quality of Alpine environments, economies and societies – and on World Wildlife Day, we pay tribute to this transboundary asset!