How are the Alps protected – The Alpine Convention

alpine convention

Covering a territory of 190,7000km2 across eight European countries, the Alps are home to 14 million people and visited by millions more each year. The mountain range contains some of central Europe’s last wilderness areas and is host to some of the richest biodiversity in the world.  [1]

Because of its wildlife, water, energy production and tourism, the Alpine Convention was ratified in 1991 to protect the Alps. It was signed by Austria, France, Germany, Italy, Switzerland, Liechtenstein and the EU.(Slovenia later signed the convention in 1993). The Alpine Convention was the world’s first legally binding international treaty set up to protect a mountain region. [2]

The objective of the Alpine Convention

The objective of the Alpine Convention is to protect the natural environment of the Alps and to ensure that any development is carried out sustainably. It aims to balance the needs of local populations and wildlife and it proposes actions against climate change. To achieve these goals the Alpine Convention has several key protocols which member countries follow.

Alpine Convention Protocols

  • Population and culture protocol: Focused on preserving the cultural heritage of Alpine people. This includes maintaining and promoting linguistic diversity, traditional land management methods and regional artistic and musical traditions.

    alpine convention protects local customs
    The traditional cattle show in Brunnadern, Switzerland is a highlight in the autumn customs of the valley. Photo by Switzerland Tourism
  • Spatial planning and sustainable development protocol: Ensures that land is developed sustainably. The economic needs of the population are balanced with the ecological sensitivity of the environment.
  • Air pollution protocol: Unfortunately, due to increasing numbers of visitors, some alpine villages suffer from poor air quality. The convention seeks ways to reduce air pollution.  
  • Soil conservation protocol: Soils are formed incredibly slowly, particularly in alpine environments which are snow covered for almost half of the year. Soil also erodes more quickly on steeper slopes. This protocol promotes the restoration of damaged soils and promotes land use in accordance with the soil type.
  • Water management protocol: The Alps are often called Europe’s water tower. The Swiss Alps accounts for 6% of all fresh water in Europe [3]. The convention aims to reduce water pollution and ensure that the needs of local populations are balanced with the environment.
Alpine convention legislates dams
The Emmosson Dam is the second largest water reservoir in Switzerland. Photo by Andre Meier at Switzerland Tourism.
  • Nature protection and landscape conservation protocol: Relates to restoration and care of natural Alpine habitats to ensure diversity of wildlife.
  • Mountain farming protocol: When carried out sensitively, mountain farming creates habitats for a variety of bird and insect species. The mountain farming protocol promotes traditional farming methods. It also promotes maintenance of genetic diversity of crops and live-stock.
  • Mountain forests protocol: Forestry is one of the main economic activities in the Alps. The protocol sets out ways to balance the economic needs of populations with the environment.
  • Tourism and recreation protocol: Hiking and skiing can be very disruptive for wildlife. Some areas of the Alps are set aside as quiet areas where mountain sports are not allowed. Nature reserves limit activities such as camping and flying drones to assure local wildlife is undisturbed.
  • Transport protocol: Aims to reduce the amount of trans-Alpine traffic. Switzerland for example has an excellent rail system which transports the majority of freight across the country.
  • Energy protocol: Promotes energy saving methods and ensures that new power plants are constructed with the sensitivity of the Alpine region in mind. Where hydroelectric plants are constructed, they should allow animal migration and maintain existing water courses.
  • Waste management protocol: Aims to reduce waste creation and ensure waste is collected and disposed of correctly.

How can we protect the Alps?

It’s up to all of us to protect the regions we hike in. If you are coming to the Alps this summer, consider off-setting your carbon emmissions by donating money to plant trees: You can calculate the carbon emmissions of your flight here. 

(700kg of carbon emmissions will take 5 trees approximately 30 years to recycle.)

WeForest is one of many charities that enables you donate money to plant trees to offset your travel footprint.

Read about Alpenwild’s commitment to eco friendly travel


[1] Alp
[2] Alpine Convention

Jennifer Stretton
Latest posts by Jennifer Stretton (see all)

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Sign Up for Our Email Newsletter

Stay up to date on the latest Alpenwild news. You're free to opt out at any time.