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Structural change in mountain agriculture continues unabated, with fewer and fewer farms cultivating increasingly large areas. We develop site-adapted strategies for sustainable land use in the mountain region.
The process of rationalisation in mountain agriculture is leading to the abandonment of sites that cannot be farmed mechanically. The subsequent succession to woodland changes the composition of flora and fauna. What minimum use is necessary on such marginal sites in order to maintain important services such as biodiversity, interconnectedness and soil protection?
To answer this question, we are investigating the effects of cutting, grazing and mulching on vegetation and soil at three sites in eastern and central Switzerland.
The vegetation of our mountain pastures is shaped by the centuries-long grazing of livestock. By managing the grazing, herdsmen modify its impact. Using GPS tracking, we quantify local grazing intensity on alps and the impact on the ecosystem services of forage production, biodiversity and carbon storage.
Increasing summer drought can be expected in the inner-Alpine valleys in future. To safeguard grassland yields, investment is being made in the renovation or expansion of irrigation systems. In Sent (canton of Graubünden), we are investigating how irrigation affects the vegetation composition of subalpine meadows. In addition, we are developing alternative adaptation strategies for forage-production farms in the mountain region.
Mountain agriculture is intended to perform a wide range of services for society in future as well. In addition to producing high-quality foodstuffs, it is meant to preserve a varied landscape with great biodiversity and a high recreational value. We are investigating how these different services can be quantified and optimised on a whole-farm level.
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