Promoting the full use of the potential of Alpine protective mountain forests

Basic information:

Alpine regions are particularly exposed to natural hazards and protective forests can play a significant role in risk mitigation, as shown by several sources esp. by RSA7. The management of protective forests is already spread across the Alps and different countries adopt active policies in support of this ESS. Protective forests can play an important role in the region (both in the mountains and valleys) for safeguarding properties and local people’s life and well-being.

Notwithstanding the widespread awareness of the protective function of mountain forests in the Alps and the existing national and regional initiatives supporting such a function in forest ecosystems, a scheme aimed at exploiting the full potential of Alpine protective forests applied extensively across the Alps does not exist. It could be an asset for recognising the critical mass of such an Ecosystem service (ESS) on the whole Alpine region. The pathway aims at homogenising the experiences currently run across the Alps in a coordinated way aiming at developing an Alpine-wide scheme for the management and valorisation of protective functions of Alpine forests.

Sequence of implementation steps:

Common guidelines for all Alpine countries are to be delivered on a practice-oriented method for identifying and delimiting the areas and properties at risk in proximity to forest ecosystems, including an economic valuation of the service provided by them.

Identification of existing protective forests and planned plantations/extensions of protective forests across the Alps.

Survey of existing and new management techniques of protective forests and their expected impact on the protective function with particular reference to co-benefits in the field of climate change (adaptation & mitigation).

  • Definition of a “Monitoring & Planning Scheme for Protective forests in the Alps”.
  • Formal adoption of the Scheme by the ACB/Alpine Convention with the participation of selected stakeholders.

Further Information:

This pathway needs the involvement of the following stakeholder categories:

  • National and regional forest services or competent ministries, Alpine Convention – ACB, PSAC and Contracting Parties, national and regional administrations involved in forest policies, civil protection, natural hazards, spatial planning, biodiversity experts representatives/stakeholders of forest management sector, forest owners and their associations, NGOs involved in promoting sustainable forestry
  • Definition of a Joint Alpine Scheme for monitoring the protective functions of Alpine forests under multiple dimensions, in support to the responsible institutions and stakeholders in forest management and planning
  • Step 1: Figures on valuation of exposed people and properties; figures on the share and absolute extension of protective forests (existing & planned)
  • Step 2: Number of techniques/approaches/tools surveyed
  • Step 3: Adoption (YES/NO) by Alpine Conference or Permanent Committee
  • RSA7 Report on the State of the Alps (2019)
  • Statement On the Value of Alpine Forests and the Alpine Convention’s Protocol on Mountain Forests in the framework of the international forestry policies beyond 2015 (2014; Stock taking No. 13)
  • Report on Interactions between mountain forests and flood protection (Stock taking No. 32)
  • MANFRED – Management strategies to adapt Alpine Space forests to climate change risks (Project ASP; Stock Taking No. 70)
  • RocktheAlps – Harmonized ROCKfall natural risk and protection forest mapping in the ALPine Space (Project ASP; Stock Taking No. 73)
  • Several national and regional policies across the Alps




Due to climate change, mountain forests face an increased risk from dry periods and extreme events such as wind gusts and forest fires. Weakened trees also become more vulnerable to pest diseases. On the other hand, the forest cover is growing in the Alps due to the abandonment of cultivated areas and the rise in temperature. Sustainable forest management is key to fully use both the protective and mitigation function of mountain forests, as forests act as a carbon sink, they supply wood as construction material and renewable energy source and they offer natural protection from avalanches, floods and other disasters.