Stewarding Wilderness goes beyond its boundaries

Some managers believe that to steward a Wilderness is an easy task. In the beginning to guarantee the protection, followed by carefully monitoring and researching how nature is reclaiming the area that was used in the past. This is may be true in large compact areas with minimum impact from previous use and minimal current impact from outside the area.

The real challenges start when the area was used in the previous decades and centuries, and whether the area is still impacted due to activities beyond the area boundary. This is a case of the Swiss National Park.

This experience was presented at the recent Symposium for Research in Protected Areas in Salzburg, Austria at the beginning of November 2017.

Thomas Scheurer, member of the Research Council of the Swiss National Park in Switzerland presented this experience, which can be very useful for the members of the European Wilderness Network.

Challenges of Swiss National Park with impacts from outside

Even if the Swiss National Park (SNP) is strictly protected (IUCN Ia) since more than 100 years, this near-natural area and its ecosystems have been influenced and even altered by impacts caused outside the Park. Experiences over a long period show, that specific strategies have to be developed for managing externally caused impacts in order to mitigate or control them.

A short chronology of conflicting impacts in SNP is showing that serious conflicts raised after 30 years of protection, when red deer population in the region grew constantly and obviously altered vegetation in the Park and in adjacent regions. Simultaneously the project to use the river Spöl for hydropower production was launched and, finally, the planned dams were constructed from 1960 to 1970. These two conflicts have been very much present in the public discussion for many decades and influenced the image of the Park, until appropriate management practices have been implemented successfully after 1990.

Later, in the 1960-ies and 1970-ies the number of Park visitors and the traffic on the main road crossing the Park increased constantly. Consequently, the road was extended and straightened, and infrastructure in the Park (parking, trails, resting areas) was installed. Since, traffic is increasing constantly until today, whereas visitor frequencies remained in a constant belt of fluctuation since the 1990-ies. Another concern are effects of environmental change. Since the 1970-ies, scientific research stated relevant environmental effects on the Park’s ecosystems and populations due to atmospheric depositions, increasing temperatures and drought periods, and related natural hazards.

The full text of Mr. Thomas Scheurer presentation can be find here:

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