Swiss Alps: Matching regional supply of and demand for mountain ecosystem services

Swiss Alps: Matching regional supply of and demand for mountain ecosystem services


The exemplar aims to answer the question: Which policy strategies can balance the supply of and demand for mountain ecosystem services in the future



Mountains provide many ecosystem services to both, people living in and outside the mountains. In the Swiss Alps study area, the number of farms abandoned is increasing and traditional farming systems are in decline. Therefore, as in many European mountain regions, the provision of essential services is at risk. At the same time, touristic activities and settlement development enhance local demand for ecosystem services. New and integrated strategies in agricultural, forestry and spatial planning policy are needed that counteract this mismatch in future.

This exemplar elaborates a future vision of ecosystem services in the region, together with local residents, to infer different policy strategies that promote regional development towards this vision

Location Description

The case study region is located in the Central Valais, a continental mountain area in the Swiss Alps. It includes the economically growing urban center Visp, the touristic Saas valley and the remote Baltschieder valley, and has a total of 11 municipalities. It covers an area of 443.3 km2 and is home to 15,346 residents. Unproductive land accounts for 62% of the area, while 20% is covered by forest and 16% is cultivated by agriculture.


Subnational, Local


Stakeholder groups include local residents, involved in a choice experiment and in an eye tracking experiment; and decision-makers & planners involved in discussing policy strategies using the collaborative user platform.

Methods and Tools used in the case study

- This exemplar integrates the following methods:

  •  Land-use change scenarios
  • Economic valuation tools: choice experiments
  • Quantitative assessments of ecosystem services synergies and trade-offs
  • Environmental economic models of land use and its changes 

- To model ecosystem services provision this exemplar uses BackES.

- Results are presented to stakeholders on a Collaborative User Platform

Key Findings

  • An integration of different sectoral policies that operate at different levels (from local to national) is a promising strategy to match ecosystem services supply and demand in our case study region.
  • Different policy strategies potentially result in equivalent ecosystem services benefits.
  • Stakeholders see potential for regional land-use development that takes into account ecosystem services if other local social and economic factors are considered.

Success Factors

The research conducted in the Exemplar profits from the continuity of the exemplar site. The region in the Swiss mountains has served as a case study in different research projects for more than 5 years. Therefore, many data and contacts exist, as well as close connection with a small group of continuously engaged stakeholders.

Key Challenges

  • Problems encountered in our case study region cannot always be tackled and solved on a local level. Often policy interventions or decisions at higher level are needed to steer the development in our region. Thus, a gap between local knowledge and the decision scope exists. A long-term learning process needs to be initiated and social capital needs to be established.
  • Even though under pressure, decision-makers perceive ecosystem services as ubiquitous in the region they think it is still difficult to include ecosystem services in policy strategies unless there is a real pressure or a specific incentive.

Lessons Learned

  • Direct contact with practitioners in the field is crucial to engage the broader public.
  • Including local knowledge, perceptions, values and thoughts is essential for developing regional policy strategies.

Additional Information


  • Klein TM, Celio E, Grêt-Regamey A (2015). Ecosystem services visualization and communication: A demand analysis approach for designing information and conceptualizing decision support systems. Ecosystem Services, doi:10.1016/j.ecoser.2015.02.006.
  • Brunner SH, Huber R, Grêt-Regamey A (2015). A backcasting approach to infer land-use policy strategies that match regional ecosystem services supply and demand. Environmental Modelling & Software, accepted. 


Find an exemplary version of the Collaborative Platform here:


Project Lead Contact details

Adrienne Grêt-Regamey (PLUS, ETH Zurich)

Sibyl H. Brunner (PLUS, ETH Zurich)

Thomas M. Klein (PLUS, ETH Zurich)