The Alps is a vast mountain range that stretches across several European countries, including Switzerland, Austria, Italy, and France. It is home to a diverse range of flora and fauna, including several species of domestic grazing animals such as cows, sheep, horses and goats. These animals rely on the alpine pastures for their survival, and thus, the zoning of pastures in the Alps is of utmost importance.
Principle of pasture zoning
Zoning of pastures in the Alps refers to the process of dividing the alpine region into different zones. This is done to ensure that the pastures are used sustainably and that the grazing animals do not cause any harm to the natural environment.
The zoning of pastures is a complex process. That involves several factors such as altitude, slope, vegetation, and the presence of water sources.
Factor of altitude
The Alps are often divided into three distinct zones based on altitude: the subalpine zone, the alpine zone, and the nival zone.
The subalpine zone is located between 1,500 and 2,500 meters above sea level and is covered by forests and meadows. This zone is characterised also by a transition from dense forests to open alpine meadows. The alpine zone is located between 2,500 and 3,500 meters above sea level and is characterized by rocky terrain and sparse vegetation. The nival zone is located above 3,500 meters and is characterized by permanent snow and ice.
The zoning of pastures in the Alps takes usually into account these different zones and the characteristics of each zone. Grazing animals are usually graze in the subalpine and alpine zones, but not in the nival zone. This is because the nival zone is too high and too cold for grazing animals to survive.
Factor of slope
The zoning of pastures also takes into account the slope of the terrain. Steep slopes are not suitable for grazing animals as they can cause soil erosion and landslides. Therefore, grazing animals are not usually allowed to graze on steep slopes. Instead, the steeper areas are left for natural vegetation to grow.
Factor of vegetation
The vegetation is another factor that is taken into account when zoning pastures in the Alps. Grazing animals are usually allowed to graze in areas where the vegetation is abundant, but they are not allowed to graze in areas where the vegetation is scarce. This is done to ensure that the vegetation is not overgrazed, and the natural environment is preserved.
Factor of water sources
Water sources are also an essential factor that is considered when zoning pastures in the Alps. Grazing animals require access to water, and therefore, they are only allowed to graze in areas where water sources are present. The location of water sources is also taken into account when zoning is done. Good zoning usually ensure that grazing animals do not cause any contamination to the water sources.
Example of pasture zoning in Alps
Zoning description of the mountain zones and potential tree line in the Sölktäler Nature Park in Austria.
The Sölktäler Nature Park is located in the Enns valley in the Austrian state of Styria. The park covers an area of 270 square kilometres and includes several mountain ranges and valleys.
In terms of mountain zones, the Sölktäler Nature Park includes several distinct zones, ranging from the valley floor to the high alpine zone. These zones include:
- The foothills and mountain zone: This zone includes the valley bottom and the foothills of the surrounding mountains.
- The subalpine zone: This zone is located above the valley floor and includes forests of spruce and pine trees, as well as alpine meadows.
- The alpine zone: This zone is located above the subalpine zone and includes rocky peaks, glaciers, and snowfields.
In terms of the potential timberline, it varies depending on the specific location and slope aspect. Generally, the timberline in the Sölktäler Nature Park is between 1700 and 2100 meters above sea level. However, this can vary based on factors such as slope aspect, soil type, and exposure to wind and weather.
The grazing in the Alps has very long tradition. For millennia it was the main way to provide livelihood for local people. This activity was important part of the local people daily life.
The zoning process in the Alps takes into account several factors such as altitude, slope, vegetation, and the presence of water sources. Grazing animals are usually only allowed to graze in areas that are suitable for their survival and where they cause minimal harm to the natural environment. The zoning of pastures in the Alps is a complex process, and can ensure that the alpine region is preserved for future generations.
The zoning of pastures in the Alps is a crucial process that is done to ensure the sustainable use of alpine pastures.