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How diversity is lost

The sample region used in the study extends over 1500 km² between Steyr and the Gesäuse/A National Park. (c) Iwona Dullinger

Intensive agriculture and climate change: a recent study from Austria shows how much influence both have on the loss of biodiversity in Alpine regions.

What fuels the loss of biodiversity in the Alpine countries? At present, intensive industrialised agriculture is considered the main cause of the loss of habitats for many plant and animal species, due to pesticides and monocultures, among other things. The connection between agricultural use and the decline of animal and plant species is well documented.

A study published at the beginning of 2020 by the University of Vienna and the University of Natural Resources and Applied Life Sciences calculated future decisions on land use by around 1,300 agricultural and forestry enterprises, based on the example of the Eisenwurzen region in the Austrian Alps. It concludes that climate change will play a much greater role in habitat loss than land use in the coming decades. "This result is surprising", says Iwona Dullinger from the Department of Botany and Biodiversity Research at the University of Vienna, "because a large proportion of the 834 plant species we model reacts sensitively to differences in land use".

Protected areas in forests and meadows and pastures in mountainous regions that are not suitable for intensive agriculture are the main reasons why the model does not predict major changes in land use. "Farmers' room for manoeuvre is limited under the economic conditions we assume", explains project manager Stefan Dullinger from the University of Vienna. Although the study is not transferable to other regions of the world, it may be representative of other landscapes in the peripheral regions of the Alps.

 

Sources and further information:

medienportal.univie.ac.at/press/current-press releases/detail view/articles/climate change-can-be-diverse-of-the-alps future-stronger-influencing-as-agriculture/ (de), www.blw.admin.ch/blw/de/home/nachhaltige-produktion/umwelt/biodiversitaet-und-landschaft.html (de), ethz.ch/en/news-and-events/eth-news/news/2020/02/biodiversity-does-pay.html (de), naturwissenschaften.ch/topics/biodiversity/about_biodiversity/status_and_development/mountains