University of Innsbruck

The multifunctionality of mountain landscapes

The ecosystem service (ES) concept evaluates all benefits people obtain from ecosystems, including (1) provisioning services that are all nutritional, material and energetic outputs from living systems (e.g. food or fodder production), (2) regulation and maintenance services meaning all the ways in which living organisms can mediate or moderate the ambient environment (e.g. natural hazards regulation), and (3) cultural services covering all the non-material outputs of ecosystems (e.g. recreation or aesthetic value). Here, multifunctional landscapes offer the capability to provide a high diversity and abundance of ESs within a defined area in order to fulfil multiple social, cultural, ecological and economic needs.

Except for glacier retreat, all factors influencing the multifunctionality in the case study site of the municipality Sölden (Tyrol, Austria) are driven by the interplay of agricultural and tourism activities. When economy is focusing too much on food or timber production, regulating and cultural services may suffer. Low-intensity agricultural activities, in contrast, support the supply of manifold ESs not only of intended agricultural services (e.g. food or fodder production), but also of unintended ESs, such as recreation or aesthetic value. Hence, extensification of agricultural use enhances multifunctionality, whereas agricultural abandonment leads to multifunctionality loss. In the case study site, the tourism sector is the counterpart to the agricultural sector. On the one hand, the tourism domain has the potential to broaden the range of supplied ESs by the extensification of agricultural production and fostering of cultural services that are attractive for tourists. But on the other hand, high tourism intensity can also reduce ES supply indirectly by replacing agricultural activities and co-produced ESs or directly by negatively influencing biodiversity and cultural services.



Figure 1 - The co-existence of agricultural and touristic activities in the municipality Sölden.


Our findings in Sölden lead us to conclude that the stable and balanced supply of ESs is supported by local livelihoods that are balanced between agriculture and tourism. We recommend supporting low-intensity agricultural activities and controlling human interference in the landscape with designated protection areas.



Huber L, Schirpke U, Marsoner T, Tasser E, Leitinger G (2020). Does socioeconomic diversification enhance multifunctionality of mountain landscapes? Ecosystem Services 44: 101122.

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