Ecosystem Services

Ecosystem services in mountain regions

  • Project duration: December 2020 - December 2021
  • Project status:
  • Funding:
    Internal funding EURAC (Project)

Especially mountain ecosystems provide a wide range of ecosystem services, which are indispensable to life, such as provision of food and clean drinking water or climate and natural hazards regulation as well as recreation and leisure, and at the same time, they are extremely responsive to global change. Thus, the research on the causal relationship between biodiversity – ecological functions – ecosystem services – pressure on land resources – global change is of great scientific interest and of practical importance regarding the quality of life. Therefore, the project aims to analyze ecosystems services of mountain regions and to quantify them by developing adapted models.

The project 'Ecosystem Services' groups studies dealing with ecosystem and landscape goods and services in mountain areas. Hence, it is focusing on the topic 2 'Ecosystem Services (ES) – delivery and vulnerability of multiple ES in mountain areas' of the strategic plan 2012-2018.

The major questions we are addressing in this umbrella project are:

(i) how different services are linked to each other and to the various ecosystem components and functions,

(ii) how different human actions which affect ecosystems modify the provision of ecosystem services and the potential trade-offs among services,

(iii) how different temporal and spatial scales influence the demand and supply of services,

(iv) how the demand of ES influences the landscape,

(v) how the complex interactions between ecosystems and beneficiaries can be described, and

(vi) what the future challenges are in ES provision in the light of environmental and socioeconomic changes


Human societies rely on the vast diversity of benefits provided by nature, such as food, fibres, construction materials, clean water, clean air and climate regulation. All elements required for these ecosystem services depend on biodiversity and ecosystem function is the driving force behind their regulation. Due to the comparatively new approach, the knowledge of ecosystem services and their significance for human well-being as well as interrelations with direct and indirect drivers of change is rather incomplete on national as well as global scale.

The project includes several activities:

1. For the period 2013-2020, one objective is to quantify the influence on ES provision of marginal grasslands by evaluating historical land-use/cover change (LUCC) and future scenarios of landscape composition and configuration. A set of indicators on ES flows and resilience at landscape scale will be developed to test the specific hypotheses that: (a) Impacts on ES provision result primarily from land-use related landscape dynamics; (b) Landscape configuration and composition control the resilience of ecosystem service provision from marginal grassland. In particular, the following research activities will be carried out:
- A retrospective analysis using existing and new data to map land cover at critical dates for significant LUCC. Referring to the process of transformation of coupled human-environment systems, a set of indicators will be elaborated evaluating ecosystem resilience. These indicators will be applied to land-use/cover scenarios to analyze landscape scale dynamics of land-cover.
- Historical ES provision will be calculated using a series of statistical- and plant and soil trait based models of ecosystem services. Assuming that the same ecosystems delivered the same ES as today, this crucial assumption will be critiqued by using available external information, e.g. agrarian statistics and historical vegetation analyses previously collected at the sites. To analyze effects on ES provision at landscape scale, essential data for missing ecosystem types will be gained from literature and own data from former and current projects.
- Knowledge on the impacts of heterogeneity of landscapes on ecosystem services will be extended by defining thresholds to which landscape composition and configuration can change without affecting ES provision, and how landscape configuration and composition impact ecosystem resilience. A sensitivity analyses to evaluate the effects of alternate landscape configuration and composition (i.e. extent and spatial pattern of different landscape elements) on ES provision will be performed. These analyses will in particular analyze the influence of landscape configuration and composition on biodiversity and ES provision of marginal grassland.

2. In collaboration with the national and international partners, several studies on different methodological concepts for assessing, modelling and mapping ecosystem services within the Alps will be carried out. As a long term objective, a detailed map and a short report on state and condition of ES will be developed for the entire alpine region (refer also to AlpES project).

3. A further objective is the assessment of ecosystem services provided by South Tyrol landscapes. After the identification of these services, a set of activities will be carried out in order to obtain an ES ranking together with the analysis of how stakeholders perceive the provision of landscape ecosystem services (in relation to agricultural activities and land use changes).
The studies will investigate different ecosystem services (provisioning, regulating, cultural) provided by different landscapes (e.g. larch meadows, spruce forests,vineyards). Particular attention will be devoted to cultural ecosystem services. These services are usually very difficult to assess and, as a consequence, they are often underestimated (or even not taken into account) in decision-making processes. A long term objective is the economic valuation of cultural ecosystem services provided by different landscapes of South Tyrol as well as to add calculated ES-maps at municipal level to the sustainability monitoring system South Tyrol (


Using land use/land cover trajectories to uncover ecosystem service patterns across the Alps
Egarter Vigl L, Tasser E, Schirpke U, Tappeiner U (2017)
Journal article
Regional Environmental Change

More information:

How to support the effective management of Natura 2000 sites?
Pellegrino D, Schirpke U, Marino D (2016)
Journal article
Journal of Environmental Planning and Management

More information: ...

Historical trajectories in land use pattern and grassland ecosystem services in two European alpine landscapes
Lavorel S, Grigulis K, Leitinger G, Kohler M, Schirpke U, Tappeiner U (2017)
Journal article
Regional Environmental Change

Mapping the ecosystem service delivery chain: Capacity, flow, and demand pertaining to aesthetic experiences in mountain landscapes
Egarter Vigl L, Depellegrin D, Pereira P, de Groot R, Tappeiner U (2017)
Journal article
Science of The Total Environment

More information: ...

Ecosystem Services Partnership
Consiglio per la Ricerca e la Sperimentazione in Agricoltura, Unità di Ricerca per il Monitoraggio e la Pianificazione Forestale
Université Joseph Fourie, Laboratoire d’Écologie Alpine
Consiglio per la Ricerca e la Sperimentazione in Agricoltura, Centro di Ricerca per l'Agrobiologia e la Pedologia
European Association of Environmental and Resource Economists
University of Trento, Sociology and Social Research
University of Innsbruck, Department of Economics
University of Innsbruck, Faculty of Biology, Institute of Ecology
University of Innsbruck, Mountain Agriculture Research Unit
European Society for Ecological Economics
ETH Zürich, Institut für Raum- und Landschaftsentwicklung
National Economics University, Vietnam
University of Trento, Economics and Management
Project Team
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1 - 5

Biodiversity Monitoring South Tyrol

Biodiversity Monitoring South Tyrol

Duration: December 2018 - August 2021Funding:
Internal funding EURAC (Project)

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Institute's Projects

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