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How much is nature worth?

Jul 12, 2021
Alpine pastures that provide us with food. Trees that provide a pleasant microclimate. Alpine landscapes that heal and touch. At the beginning of July 2021, around 100 participants from all Alpine countries discussed the benefits and value of nature in the Alpine region at CIPRA’s Annual Conference in Biella/I.
Image caption:
After many months of virtual events, participants from all the Alpine countries met at the CIPRA Annual Conference. © Stefano Ceretti

“If you remove the parts of a car bit by bit, at some point it no longer works”, explained Riccardo Santolini, ecologist at the University of Urbino/I. “It’s the same with ecosystems, which continue to function despite the loss of biodiversity – at least initially.” The fact that ecosystem services are also medically relevant was demonstrated by Arnulf Hartl, head of the Institute for Ecomedicine at Paracelsus Medical Private University in Salzburg/A. Waterfalls to combat allergies and asthma, mountain hiking to ward off depression, or alpine pasture exposomes for the prevention of immunological diseases: numerous studies prove the “enormous potential for prevention, cure and rehabilitation of city-associated diseases” that the Alpine region offers, says Hartl.

Colourful potatoes and green cities

Madeleine Rohrer from the Verdevale project presented GreenSpaces, an innovative digital solution for the efficient maintenance of urban green spaces in Bolzano/I and Lugano/CH. “With data on the number, location and condition of municipal green spaces, we can manage them better and thus contribute to well-being in the city,” she said. Laura Secco, professor at the University of Padua/I, used the example of the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) to show the role of international certification of ecosystem services – an approach that also met with criticism. Colourful potatoes and chestnuts, wine and pasture farming: farmers from the region around Biella also shared experiences from their daily work in the Alps.

Between ecology and economy

“The economic language of ecosystem services is strange at first”, said Bianca Elzenbaumer, Co-President of CIPRA International. However, it could make strategic sense to describe the world through the lens of ecosystem services “so that we speak a language that is also understood by politicians and economists”. A model is always only part of the whole, said Vanda Bonardo, President of CIPRA Italy. Nevertheless, she said, it is an important tool for reassessing the relationship with nature. “With this approach we are building a bridge between ecology and economy.” Andreas Muhar from the University of Natural Resources and Applied Life Sciences in Vienna/A, member of the Sounding Board of CIPRA International, says: “To motivate people to actively engage in sustainability and nature conservation, however, you need narratives that will create an emotional bond”.

The annual conference also saw the first physical meeting of Re.sources, a CIPRA youth project funded by Erasmus+ on the theme of personal and alpine resources.

Further information: (de,fr,it,sl)