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Natural and, Switzerland

Brand F.S.,ETH Zurich | Seidl R.,Natural and Social Science Interface | Seidl R.,Institute for Environmental Decisions | Seidl R.,ETH Zurich | And 9 more authors.
Ecology and Society

Alpine regions in Europe, in particular, face demanding local challenges, e.g., the decline in the agriculture and timber industries, and are also prone to global changes, such as in climate, with potentially severe impacts on tourism. We focus on the Visp region in the Upper Valais, Switzerland, and ask how the process of stakeholder involvement in research practice can contribute to a better understanding of the specific challenges and future development of mountainous regions under global change. Based on a coupled human-environment system (HES) perspective, we carried out a formative scenario analysis to develop a set of scenarios for the future directions of the Visp region. In addition, we linked these regional scenarios to context scenarios developed at the global and Swiss levels via an external consistency analysis. This method allows the coupling of both the scenario building process and the scenarios as such. We used a functional-dynamic approach to theory-practice cooperation, i.e., the involvement of key stakeholders from, for example, tourism, forestry, and administration, differed in type and intensity during the steps of the research process. In our study, we experienced strong problem awareness among the stakeholders concerning the impacts of global change and local challenges. The guiding research question was commonly defined and problem ownership was more or less balanced. We arrived at six multiscale scenarios that open up future trajectories for the Visp region, and present generic strategies to cope with global and local challenges. The results show that local identity, spatial planning, community budget, and demographic development are important steering elements in the region's future development. We suggest that method-guided transdisciplinary processes result in a richer picture and a more systemic understanding, which enable a discussion of critical and surprising issues. © 2013 by the author(s). Source

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