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Original article (non peer-reviewed)

Journal Bauhinia
Volume (Issue) 22
Page(s) 17 - 32
Title of proceedings Bauhinia


The massive changes in mountain agriculture in the last decades have impacts on the vegetation of the cultivated areas. On the basis of the history of land use in the Ursern valley (UR), the present study assesses the impacts of agricultural structural change on plant diversity. In the course of the 20th century, traditional use, characterized by a spatially differentiated and multifarious pattern of zones of use, disappeared. Forms of use, like “Wildheuen” (haymaking on steep slopes) and the collection of heating material, were abandoned. This development led to a loss of habitat diversity. In addition, a polarization in cultivation can be noticed. In someareas, use was intensified, in others it was given up. Nutrient-content species, species with a broad ecological spectrum, as well as – particularly conspicuous – green alder bushes (alnetum viridis) profited from this development, while conditions for plants growing on unfertilized meadow land deteriorated significantly. Thus,for Ursern a reduction of plant diversity is to be assumed, and associated with it a reduction of biodiversity altogether. The relatively detailed reconstructionof the history of use over a period of 100 years is based on the analysis of a wide range of historical sources. Major parts of the material are from the archives of the Corporation Ursern (a corporation as they developed in the Middle Ages from cooperative use of the commons), which owns more than 90% of the areas in the valley and defines the rules of use for them.