Mountain nature is exceptionally rich, and mountains are Europe's ecological backbone, water tower and green lung. Yet mountain nature is threatened by the effects of global warming and various human pressures. Euromontana promotes the sustainable development and protection of the mountain environment, as well as the fair recognition of the ecosystem services that mountains provide to society as a whole.

Protecting mountain biodiversity

Mountain areas are the ecological backbone of Europe. They are particularly rich in biodiversity and many areas, such as the Iberian mountains, are home to numerous endemic species. Mountains also play a key role in the Natura 2000 network, with 43% of protected sites located in mountain areas. However, climate change, soil artificialisation and land abandonment are causing a loss of biodiversity. As an illustration of the considerable damage, 60% of mountain plant species in the Alps may face extinction by 2100 if they cannot adapt to climate change by moving northwards or upslope.

We call for

  • Stepping up efforts to mitigate climate change. Mountains are particularly vulnerable to biodiversity loss because many mountain species can only survive in limited climatic niches. In some areas, global warming is already pushing species from lower altitudes to higher ones.
  • Maintaining a significant budget for mountain farming in the Common Agricultural Policy. Payments for Areas of Natural Constraints help to maintain agriculture and protect biodiversity in mountain areas. In particular, the conservation of many habitats and species, such as grasslands, the Alpine chamois and the golden eagle, is linked to the maintenance of pastoral systems.
  • Ensuring ecological continuity by maintaining and creating natural corridors, in particular through the LIFE programme.
  • Developing more habitat and species restoration and conservation projects across mountain ranges, including cross-border massifs, to maximise the environmental benefits.
  • Reinforcing the efforts to protect forests, which are affected by illegal logging and severe forest fires, especially in Natura 2000 areas.

Securing water resilience

The mountains are Europe’s water towers. The Alps alone provide 40% of Europe’s fresh water. But this vital resource is under threat from rising temperatures, leading to the melting of glaciers and the emergence of new, more erratic and unpredictable water cycles. With dwindling water resources, conflicts over water use are increasing and a long-term European vision is needed to ensure resilience.

We call for

  • Improving access to reliable long-term data on water, in particular through the European Union’s Copernicus service.
  • Developing strategies at the catchment level in consultation with local communities, including those involved in agriculture, tourism, energy and industry. This would promote the resilience of water resources in the long term and avoid conflicts of use by prioritising uses appropriate to each local context.
  • Launching campaigns to raise awareness of the water crisis at European, national and regional levels. Policy makers and local communities are still insufficiently aware of the challenges of water management and its impacts in mountain areas.
  • Increasing the protection of wetlands, in particular through the LIFE programme. The creation of new wetlands, such as lakes from melting glaciers, must also be anticipated to avoid the risk of maladaptation.
  • Enhancing the recognition of the role of mountain farming in water management by maintaining increased support for these areas in the Common Agricultural Policy.
  • Adopting an informed use of hydropower and favouring small-scale installations.

Recognising the role of mountains with payments for ecosystem services

Europe’s mountains provide a wide range of ecosystem services to society as a whole, including supporting, provisioning, regulating and cultural services. Yet, mountain areas are often not compensated for the ecosystem services they provide. Euromontana advocates fair recognition and payment to support long term provision of these environmental benefits.

We call for

  • Compensating mountain areas for the provision of ecosystem services by introducing payments in the funding allocated to mountain municipalities. Some inspirational experiences can be drawn from France and Lombardy in particular.
  • Better valuing the ecosystem services provided by mountain agriculture and pastoralism, especially in terms of protecting species and habitats, combating soil erosion, preserving water resources and preventing forest fires.