Title: Research Strategies for the New Goals of Mountain Farming
Authors: NOESBERGER JosefBIALA Katarzyna
Citation: Quality Production and Quality of the Environment in the Mountain Pastures of an Enlarged Europe p. 341-354
Publisher: Agenzia Regionale per lo Sviluppo Rurale (ERSA)
Publication Year: 2006
JRC N°: JRC31482
URI: http://publications.jrc.ec.europa.eu/repository/handle/JRC31482
Type: Articles in periodicals and books
Abstract: European Agriculture is in a dramatic phase of changes, especially in those countries which have undergone considerable transformation processes. The global trend of liberalization requests from all countries a re-orientation of the agricultural policy and free access to the European markets. In addition, experience is accumulating that we are in a phase of global warming. We can only speculate about the outcome of these trends, however, we must assume that the consequences will be different for lowland and mountain agriculture and in the various agroecological zones of Europe. Risk is increasing that mountain farmers will be faced with stronger competition from the lowland farmer and from the harsh international markets. The effects of warming may increase plant productivity, but they can also jeopardize the economic situation of many mountain regions. Lower earnings in winter tourism will reinforce economic disparities between urban areas and the less developed alpine region. The uncertainty surrounding potential threats has been, and is, frequently used as a reason not to develop research strategies for sustainable mountain farming systems. This situation is quite obvious, when we compare past and actual research efforts devoted to the different components of mountain ecosystems. Research providing policy advice has a high priority. It is widely accepted that agriculture and particularly mountain farming has a multifunctional role- but is its long-term development guided by an appropriate research support? Field experts followed since many decades the floristic changes of pastures and meadows under different management in various regions. Traditional and indigenous knowledge served as a guideline for the best practise recommendations. The underlying mechanisms of the floristic changes and of the responses to management have been rarely investigated. The same is even truer for the consequences of floristic changes and/or potential site-specific effects on the quality and traceability of animal products from mountain agriculture. Scientific evidence is badly needed. To increase the awareness of the multifunctional role of mountain agriculture we cannot rely only on expectations about positive effects of managed pastures on the landscape with beneficial effects for the tourism. Solid data are urgently needed about the service function of pastures and forests for storage and cycling of water, biodiversity, biogeochemical cycles and soil conservation. Indicators do fulfil many useful, primarily short-term functions, but they cannot provide the necessary mechanistic understanding. Does the abandonment of pastures or an intensification of the agricultural land-use necessarily result in impairment of ecosystem services? Very limited knowledge is actually available in this domain. Sustainable management of natural resources is affected by a wide range of factors, those relating to the underlying biological/ecological system and those relating to human use and impact. Threats to sustainable resource management and biodiversity cannot be specified solely in terms of ecology; they are linked with and driven by broader socio-economic factors including markets and political dynamics. Therefore, specific decisions about land-use, management and policy measures will vary widely according to circumstances. Only the cooperation of different disciplines with various new scientific approaches can provide the knowledge needed to develop sustainable mountain farming systems which meet also the multiple expectation of the society.
JRC Directorate:Sustainable Resources

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