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Climate change challenge

Link to Case Study results here

The Montafon Valley is situated in a high alpine landscape. More than 2/3 of the area is forested with Norway spruce. The largest share of the forest is located above 1200 m a.s.l. in mountainous terrain, which makes management difficult and where timber harvesting relies mainly on skyline systems. Beyond timber production the most of the forests serve protective functions against natural hazards (i.e. snow avalanche, rock fall, landslide, debris flows, erosion, flooding). To maintain these functions in the long term the forests are managed towards high structural diversity.


The main issue in this case study is, how climate change will impact on the provision of the vast set of demanded goods and services (timber production, biomass for energy production, protection against natural hazards, carbon sequestration, provision of drinking water, nature conservation, recreation) particularly considering potentially intensified disturbance regimes (bark beetles, wind throw and their interplay).





Response to the challenge

The valley floor is densely populated while the overall socio-economic importance of the valley is confirmed by its multiple uses from winter (skiing) and summer (hiking, mountaineering) tourism, grassland and dairy farming and mountain pastures. Wood, pasture and hunting are also important commercial forest goods and services.


The main aim of this case study is to develop and analyze alternative management strategies to counteract potentially negative impacts of climate change on the demanded goods and services. Different management scenarios considering alternative strategies with regard to tree species composition and silvicultural regimes will be evaluated. Changes in trade-offs between different goods and services under adaptive management will be addressed.


Who will carry out the research and what models are applied

Model-based scenario analysis will be a major analysis method. Major tool for the analysis will be the hybrid model PICUS which aims at combining the strengths of patch models and process based production models while circumventing limitations of the individual approaches. The hybrid patch model incorporates a number of flexible sub-models for scenario analysis (e.g. forest management, bark beetle damage, rock fall protection).


A second simulation model to be applied and further developed will be the forest landscape simulator LandClim. The model has been demonstrated to be able to simulate vegetation dynamics accurately along steep environmental gradients in the Swiss Alps. In addition to simulating forest growth the model also incorporates fire and wind disturbances, and forest management, and their impacts on forest dynamics.


Research in this case study is conducted by (a) the University of Natural Resources and Applied Life Sciences (BOKU), Vienna, Austria using the PICUS model and (b) the ETH Zurich using LandClim.The contact persons from BOKU are Michael Maroschek ( and Manfred Josef Lexer ( The representatives from ETH are Christian Temperli and Harald Bugmann.



Where the case study is situated, who owns the land

The central alpine case study comprises the area of the Stand Montafon Forstfonds (SMF) in the Montafon Valley. It is located at the western border of Austria and part of the Province of Vorarlberg. The SMF is the largest land owner in the Province of Vorarlberg (8500 ha, ca. 75 % forested). From the public sector the regional forest administration in the Province of Vorarlberg and the Regional Office of the Bureau of torrent and avalanche control will be involved to the case study. From the private sector, the management team of the SMF and their forest staff will also be participating in the project. Furthermore tourism representatives, hunters as well as the Vorarlberger Illwerke AG a hydro power enterprise will be consulted as important stakeholder.

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