Landscape experts met in the European Alps

Around 200 participants from Europe, Asia and the Americas met at the PECSRL 2016 conference in Innsbruck and Seefeld, Austria, to discuss the past, present and future of rural mountain landscapes.

Hosted by the Institute for Interdisciplinary Mountain Research of the Austrian Academy of Sciences, this year’s meeting of the Permanent European Conference for the Study of the Rural Landscape focused on European mountains and their forelands. Several sessions followed a comparative approach and included experiences from the Peruvian Andes, the Brazilian Highlands and the Japanese Alps. Stimulating debates centred on the development of protected areas, the use of renewable energies, the challenges for mountain agriculture and tourism, or the role of local identity and cultural heritage—all under the impact of global changes. Geographer Oliver Bender, who organized the conference, reminded audiences that “Rural mountain landscapes do not only bear witness to the past, but also play a crucial role in the future-proof—or sustainable—development of the world’s urban areas”. To complement the theoretical facts and figures, five field trips provided the participants with new practical insights into the host region, from hydropower generation and glacial melt to an Alpine dairy. “It’s difficult to grasp how a farming family can make a living with just 18 cows; this would be almost impossible in Sweden”, said a surprised Scandinavian scholar during his visit to the lower Inn Valley in the Austrian Province of Tyrol. The participants were warmly welcomed by the President of the Regional Assembly, Herwig van Staa, and the mayor of Seefeld, Werner Frießer, issued an invitation for a ride in a funicular up to the Rosshütte restaurant (1760 m) and dinner with spectacular views.

Contact: PD Dr. Oliver Bender