Graduated in Geography with a major in Environmental Protection. In love with sustainability, ecology, geology and nature.
Why are mountain areas one of the most landscape sensitive areas in Slovenia? What are the best measures for conservation and sustainable development in these areas? What are the main causes that contribute to the landscape sensitivity of the area? What are the most appropriate measures to contribute to the overall improvement of this vulnerable ecosystem?
Definition of "Landscape Vulnerable" Mountain Areas
Mountain areas of Slovenia are a very sensitive, vital ecosystem. They have distinctive relief, climate, hydrological and vegetation features. They play a very important role in the supply of renewable energy sources and drinking water. They are characterized by high biodiversity, and different elevation belts allow a great variety of habitats. They also offer pleasant opportunities for recreation. Extreme natural conditions also increase the sensitivity of mountain areas.
Among ecologically sensitive mountain ecosystems we include the landscapes above 1000 meters above sea level. In this altitude zone lies 11.1% of Slovenia: 61.5% in the region of Visokogorje, 8.1% in the Prealpine Hills, 9.6% in the Dinaric Highlands, 10.6% in the transitional Alpine-Subpanse area and the rest in other transitional areas.
According to natural geographical and socio-geographical characteristics, the most vulnerable regions in the mountain world are:
- steep slopes in impermeable rocks with intensive denudation-erosion and destructive processes (avalanches, suburbs, torrents)
- tourist areas with extensive interventions in the environment with regulation and maintenance of ski trails and areas of mass hiking or other unsustainable forms of recreation
- traffic congested mountain areas (mountain passes, mountain roads)
Natural geographical effects on the ecological sensitivity of mountain areas
Natural sensitivity and reduced carrying capacity of mountain ecosystems are caused by stable landscape ecological factors (relief, lithological structure) and variable landscape ecological factors (climatic, hydrological, pedological conditions).
The mountain ecosystem is mainly transformed by intensive erosion - denudation processes. These processes are the largest where predominate steep slopes in impermeable rocks and a dense network of narrow valleys. There is also a great threat of destructive geomorphic processes (torrents, landslides, ...). The potential threat to mountain areas is also enhanced by the noncarbonate rock formation, the agglomerated surfaces of conifer forests or alpine shrubs, where the acid soil is predominant, with reduced ability to neutralize acid rainfall or polluted atmosphere. The steep mountain slopes are best protected against denudation-erosion processes by the forest cover, so it is important to preserve intact vegetation and selective chopping or cutting in small, separate bands or clearings.
High-mountain lakes have relatively clean water, although they show slow acidification processes as a result of a transboundary transfer of polluted air.
Anthropogenic impacts on the landscape vulnerability of mountain areas
The regional effects of anthropogenic impacts on mountainous landscapes are of various shapes and dimensions and are more common in the lower mountain world. The cultural landscape in the mountainous regions is preserved only with permanent agrarian use, which takes into account the local geographical characteristics and the carrying capacity of the environment.
In areas where the impact of recreation and tourism is strengthened, there is a noticeable decline in traditional forms of farming and focusing on those activities that serve the needs of occasional visitors. Residents of mountain areas abandon sustainable forms of exploitation of natural resources such as deforestation in the form of clearings, composting of waste and exploitation of relief forms for easier transport, which in the past have enabled them to survive in unfavorable natural conditions.
With the development of tourism and recreation, in the mountainous regions, new anthropogenic mountain landscapes and settlements emerged in addition to the mountain pastureland. These are different types of tourist resorts, but there are also ski resorts outside of permanent settlements, which are characterized by cuts and notches in forests with cableways and compacted hotel settlements. The particular ecological problem is the tourist areas, which have experienced the most significant transformation through the regulation of ski trails.
During the summer months, the pollution of the environment, especially water, with sewage from high mountain tourist stands, is significantly increased, while mountain climbers and hikers during this time bring large amounts of waste from the valley to the mountainous regions. Mass hiking in the mountains can accelerate erosion-denudation processes, and even more negative provincial effects result in more modern forms of recreation, such as driving with mountain bikes or motors. In general, the traffic burden on mountain routes, regional and local and mountain passes is one of the biggest environmental problems of these regions.
In mountain areas, especially in western and north-western Slovenia, the negative effects of polluted air are also known. Polluted air also comes across the border from neighboring and more distant industrial and thermoenergetic sources. The main causes for this environmental problem are acid rainfall and dust sediments. In terms of cross-border transmission of polluted air, Slovenia has an unfavorable position. From central, western and Mediterranean Europe, especially from the nearby heavily industrialized northern Italy, the polluted air masses spread to our regions, where they are stopped by the orographic barrier at the Alpine-Dinaric contact.
Since there are no major industrial and municipal sources of emissions in the Slovenian Alps, an interesting estimate is that only 8% of the sulfur sediments in precipitation in the area of the Julian Alps, or in the greater part of the Triglav National Park, are of Slovene origin.
Mountain areas are one of the most landscape vulnerable areas in Slovenia. Both natural geographical factors as well as anthropogenic interactions increase their sensitivity and influence their burden. Therefore, the maintenance of mountain and mountain ecosystems for the population in Slovenia is of the utmost importance. Mountain and mountain landscapes play an important role in the supply of renewable energy sources and provide opportunities for recreation. Mountain and hill forests are very important for soil conservation, water regime, and protection against hazards. In Slovenia, mountain and hill areas are changing dramatically due to the growing development of tourism and recreation, decline in settlement, soil erosion, avalanches, ... Problems are further exacerbated by the economic and social vulnerability of these areas.
Mountain areas also receive great attention in the international context. In general, the emphasis is on preserving the identity of mountain inhabitants and communities and their role in the sustainable management of environmental resources, enabling them to enjoy in the environment and producing high-quality products. However, it is very important to maintain and improve the mountain and hilly environment for future generations.