LIFE Project Cover Photo

Pastures vulnerability and adaptation strategies to climate change impacts in the Alps

Reference: LIFE16 CCA/IT/000060 | Acronym: LIFE PASTORALP



Ecosystems in the Alps are considered as hotspots of climate and land use changes. Socio-economic changes in past decades have caused several modifications in the land-use intensity of many mountain regions, and permanent pastures have experienced negative consequences, with effects on biomass production, quality of forage, botanical composition and biodiversity.

Natural pastures result from the combined influence of local environmental characteristics (mainly climate and soil properties) and centuries of managed livestock grazing. Properly managed pastoral farming is recognised as making a significant contribution to ecosystem carbon sequestration. European policies encourage low-carbon agricultural practices, but an accurate accounting of the carbon sink capacities of pastures in the north-west Alps, and the management practices that could enhance them, are not well known.

Climate change is affecting high mountain systems in different ways, such as water resources availability, advances in phenology, shifts in geographic ranges of some species or vegetation types, biodiversity loss and thus reduction in some ecosystem services related to natural resources. However, in many alpine regions, measures to manage alpine pasture in the face of climate change are still lacking, with only ad hoc policies for marginal areas to preserve mountain farming, promote mountain pasture conservation and extensive grazing.


The overall aim of the LIFE PASTORALP project is to reduce the vulnerability and increase the resilience of alpine pasture agriculture by assessing and testing adaptation measures, increasing capacity building and developing improved management strategies for climate change adaptation. The achievement of this goal will be based upon a solid science-based knowledge of future climate change impacts on pastoral communities located in two national parks, (the Parc National des Ecrins in France and the Parco Nazionale Gran Paradiso in Italy) in the western Alps, as examples of the alpine environment. Another goal of the project is the deployment of the PASTORALP platform tools for facilitating the development and adoption in the two parks of climate change adaptation strategies, which can then be transferred to other pastoral ecosystems across the Alps, along with the creation of guidelines and recommendations for adaptation planning.

In particular, the project will provide improved and alternative criteria for well-informed decision-making by enhancing the knowledge base at local, regional and national level on: (i) climate change projections targeted to the Alps, (ii) vulnerability of pasturelands, (iii) strategies for sustainable pastoralism and, (iv) the demonstration and evaluation of the effectiveness of the adaptation measures.

Expected results: The project will downscale future climate scenarios for the study areas by collecting homogenised pasture (six pasture typologies) and climate data (20 datasets) along with the definition of more than ten environmental and socio-economic indicators of alpine pasture agro-ecological systems status. Importantly, more than 30 stakeholders are expected to be involved throughout the implementation of the project. Additionally, the PASTORALP platform tools are likely to be positively evaluated and will further promote adaptive strategies in the western Alps.

Through the abovementioned specific actions and subsequent results, the main expected results are the following:

  • Identification of alpine pastures vulnerability in two national parks through indicators, remote sensing and a modelling approach;
  • Demonstration of the impact assessment of climate and socio-economic changes on alpine pastures through more than ten experiences transferred;
  • Development of an integrated adaptation strategy plan for alpine pastures management;
  • Creation of an integrated document that provides guidelines and recommendations for enhanced decision-making of pastures management with regard to climate change impacts;
  • Establishment of two permanent demonstration areas of proposed adaptation management options along with a web-based platform for supporting stakeholder engagement and participation, with an estimated number of 100 visitors per month; and
  • Dissemination of the project’s results to public administrators and policy-makers, and promotion of climate change proofing policies, practices and methodologies in rural development plans.
  • The project is expected to facilitate the development of climate change adaptation strategies for alpine pastures and pastoral activity with the deployment of guidelines and recommendations for adaptation planning, underlining the project’s relevance to the EU’s climate change adaptation. Moreover, the PASTORAL platform tools could also be a case study for the European Climate-ADAPT platform in terms of replicability transfer at a later stage. Finally, as mountain pastures are acknowledged as ecosystems crucial for maintaining biodiversity, the protection of such isolated areas will also contribute to the implementation of the EU’s Birds and Habitats Directives.


    Reference: LIFE16 CCA/IT/000060
    Start Date: 01/10/2017
    End Date: 30/03/2023
    Total Budget: 2,314,400 €
    EU Contribution: 1,381,888 €
    Project Location:


    Coordinating Beneficiary: UNIVERSITA DEGLI STUDI DI FIRENZE - Dipartimento di Scienze delle Produzioni Agroalimentari e dell'Ambiente (DISPAA)
    Legal Status: PAT
    Address: Piazza San Marco,4, 50121, Firenze, Italia
    Contact Person: Marco BINDI
    Tel: 39552755703

    LIFE Project Map



    • Natural resources and ecosystems


    • grassland ecosystem
    • Agriculture
    • decision making support
    • mountainous area
    • land use


    • Directive 92/43 - Conservation of natural habitats and of wild fauna and flora- Habitats Directive (21.05.1992)
    • COM(2011) 244 final “Our life insurance, our natural capital: an EU biodiversity strategy to 2020” (03.05.2011)
    • COM(2013)216 - EU Strategy on adaptation to climate change (16.04.2013)


    Name Type
    UNIVERSITA DEGLI STUDI DI FIRENZE - Dipartimento di Scienze delle Produzioni Agroalimentari e dell'Ambiente (DISPAA) Coordinator
    Parc National des Ecrins, France Participant
    Agenzia Regionale Protezione Ambiente - Valle d'Aosta, Italy Participant
    Ente Parco Nazionale Gran Paradiso, Italy Participant
    Institut Agricole Régional, Italy Participant
    National Research Institute of Science and Technology for Environment and Agriculture, France Participant