According to CIPRA the Alps represent on important living Space in Europe with an area of up to 190.000 km 2 and a population of over 13 million people in 8500 tovvns and communities. lt is characterized by very different conditions, with varying topographies and climates, as well as demographies and economies. Its unity lies in its diversity of small, including some extremely small, bio-tops which are very sensitive to natural and anthropogenic disturbances. For centuries there was an artificial balance in the Alpine living space, but today this is changing. One of the important driving forces behind this change is the structural transformation in land use in the Alpine space due to Europe's changing political, economic and social conditions, with a segregation of, on the one hand, tourist and economic centres which put heavy pressure on nature and landscapes, and, on the other, of abandoned, formerly cultivated areas. The attractiveness of the Alps has been recognized in Europe for more than 200 years and many important figures in each generation have been captivated by their beauty. Hence Alpine research has a rather long tradition. Nevertheless many vital questions are still unanswered and new questions need addressing due to the above nnentioned changes. For the first time people are having to decide what kind of landscape they would prefer to have in their valleys in future and hovv they will manage it. Therefore research in the Alpine space is not any longer only a challenge for society but also a social obligation.