- Glossary AlpES Terms
This project is co-financed by the European Regional Development Fund through the Interreg Alpine Space programme
The European Alps – as defined by the Alpine Convention – cover an area of roughly 190,000 km² and are populated by more than 14 million inhabitants. Additionally, the European Alps recieve another 120 million annual visitors. The European Alps are not only an individual biographical area of Europe, but also give their name to an entire type of a European biographic region. They provide ecosystem services for up to a third of the European population. Three large streams, the Rhine, the Rhone and the Po originate in the Alps, most of the water for the Danube comes from there, justifying their by-name of ‘water tower of Europe’. This water is nourishment, process water and provider of clean and renewable energies as well as peak electricity for the European grid. Permanent settlement is only possible up to ca. 2000 m a.s.l. This means that 75% of the Alpine area can only be settled seasonally or not at all. Human settlements thus reach the upper altitudinal limit and with it an ecologically highly sensitive border area. At the same time, the Alps represent a hotspot of biodiversity and an important gene pool as well as pools of cultural diversity and are a recreation area of global stature. Scientists may see them as open-air laboratories of Global Change. Here, especially, strategies for sustainable regional development are needed to minimize risks and to leverage opportunities. They can help maintain a unique area in its potency for inhabitants, visitors and for the extra-Alpine population that depends on its resources. In 1991, the Alpine Convention was signed by eight Alpine states. It formed the first crossborder agreement based on the idea of sustainable spatial development in a mountain area 1).
The Alpine Convention summarizes some of the most important facts on the Alps:2)