Balancing Economic Development and Environmental Conservation for a New Governance of Alpine Areas
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In the Alpine environment, Man has always been directly dependent on mountain ecosystems. Social mechanisms have created specific models of governance, capable of assuring the persistence of ecosystems and their capacity to provide essential goods and services. In recent decades, however, dramatic changes have occurred, such as climate change and changes in land use. The complexity common to all linked human-natural environment systems is extremely marked in the Alpine areas and this makes it difficult to understand how resilient these systems may be. Many research questions arise, in particular as to the comprehension and quantification of the impact of changes on the capacity of ecosystems to produce goods and services in a sustainable way, and the possibility of local mechanisms of governance to adapt to both current and future changes. Reasons and effects of change are analysed from the perspective of the specific issues of governance. The importance of the Ecosystems Services (ESs) concept is acknowledged and the necessity for a dynamic assessment of ESs, taking into account people's values and expectations, is particularly stressed. Through a careful analysis of selected papers and case studies, the main gaps in current knowledge are identified and directions for further research are provided.