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Effects of forest expansion and land abandonment on ecosystem services of alpine environments: case study in Ledro valley (Italy) for the period 1859-2011

Paper Topic: 
Ecosystems and Natural Resources Management

Pages :
875 - 884

Corresponing Author: 
Vassilis Aschonitis
Chiara Fedrigotti, Vassilis Aschonitis and Elisa Anna Fano
Paper ID: 
Paper Status: 
Date Paper Accepted: 
Paper online: 

During the last century, the European Alps have faced intense socio-economic changes, which have led to respective land-use changes with immediate impact on ecosystem services (ESs). The aim of the study is to present the land-use changes and their effects on the economical contribution of ESs in the alpine environment of Ledro Valley, in Northern Italy. Data were collected through historical cartography and photographic material from 1859, 1973 and 2011. The analysis of landscape evolution highlighted the forest expansion, and partially the urban expansion, at the expense of grasslands and croplands due to a transition from a rural to a touristic and handcrafting economy. The land-use changes led to an overall reduction of the economical contribution of ESs, while further analysis on individual services identified advantages and disadvantages caused by the re-naturalization process of forest expansion. The results suggested that the profit maximization of ESs under the pressure of such land-use changes can be achieved by a) a respective profit maximization from services related to recreation activities (tourism) which have an immediate economical impact on local economies and b) the maintenance and sustainable management of the typical rural landscape and grasslands in order to preserve some of their economical benefits.

Alpine environment, land-use change, ecosystem services, forest expansion, land abandonment