Investigating the role of alpine forests as Eco-DRR against gravitational hazards: a socio-economic analysis
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The Alps have experienced deep socio-economic transition changes in the last decades, as land-use changes, mass tourism and increasing limitations to settlement space. Moreover, several studies affirm that, as a consequence of climate change, mountain areas will be particularly affected by more severe natural hazards in magnitude and frequency, posing a severe threat to their liveability. In this complex scenario, the development of resilient risk management strategies against hazards as landslides, avalanches, rockfall and debris flow is paramount. In mountain environments, Ecosystem-based solutions for Disaster risk Reduction (Eco-DRR) are mainly represented by protection forests, whose historical protective role is often overlooked in the current management strategies. We aim at supporting the local risk governance by fostering the adoption of protection forests as Eco-DRR to be implemented beside grey infrastructures (as net barriers and dams) and land management measures (as construction bans and road closures). We evaluate these different measures from a socio-economic perspective in different case studies across the Alps, assessing and comparing costs and benefits of managing forests with those of the other available solutions. The results of these monetary evaluations are then channeled into grey-green risk management strategies able to optimize the integration of different measures, improving the territorial resilience of the area in the most cost-effective way. Finally, representatives of the mountain communities are involved in targeted workshops to prioritize such strategies, ranking the most desirable solutions to be implemented in the area. This allows designing effective risk governance strategies responding to the specific features of each area in terms of hazard, risk and mitigation. Moreover, the stakeholders involvement provide relevant findings on the social and policy acceptability of the different measures, making the risk governance process more participative and highlighting the potential role of Eco-DRR instead of, or together with, the standard grey measures adopted hitherto.