The National Park Upper Austrian Limestone Alps region, with its 22 municipalities, is characterized by an extensive and very nature-friendly form of mountain farming. The area-adapted production in the field of grassland farming with cattle farming, developed over centuries, promotes essential ecosystem services, which represent an important basis of life for society within and outside the region. However, these services are seldom covered by costs, and the continuation of the nature-friendly and small-scale mountain farming is not sustainably secured.

In the project, scientifically and agriculturally committed individuals collaborate to highlight and valorize the services of mountain farming in the region better than before, using an innovative approach. For this, the services are recorded, quantified, and marketable business models, especially in the form of strategic partnerships with the economy, are developed. This is intended to contribute to generating an alternative income for agricultural farms.

Initial Situation

In recent decades, there have been undesirable developments in mountain farming due to the general situation in the agricultural sector. These include:

        • An increasing decline in grassland management, especially in steep terrain.
        • Decreasing income for agricultural enterprises from agricultural production, resulting in increased dependence on public subsidies (GAP Reform).
        • An increasing workload on farms due to the necessity to establish additional sources of income or undertake disproportionate growth steps.

This scenario threatens both mountain farming directly and the development of other economic sectors in the entire region (such as tourism). Therefore, there is a desire to actively counter these developments by sustainably strengthening mountain farming through innovative marketing models.


        • Better economic safeguarding of sustainable, ecological mountain farming
        • Collection and evaluation of the ecosystem services of the region’s mountain farming
        • Systematically exploring the needs and opportunities for remuneration of ecosystem services
        • Conceptualization of marketing options for ecosystem performance, which includes the development, testing, and evaluation of innovative business models for ecosystem services of mountain farming


Phase I: „Capture“:
Development of a model for the qualitative description of ecosystem services, aspects, delimitations, and correlations. Definition of a set of indicators and necessary measures for evaluating ecosystem services. A field study involving around 30 companies is conducted to collect ecosystem services. The evaluation is based on operational and regional levels.

Phase II: „Evaluate“:
Quantitative and qualitative surveys measure the service potential on the agricultural businesses. For this purpose, the operational added values in terms of environmental impacts and income from the provision of ecosystem services are quantified. In addition, agricultural economic calculations are made of the provisioning costs and research is conducted on possible marketing opportunities and needs in the economics sector with a view to future framework conditions.

Phase III: „Valorization“:
Application of a multi-stage survey process with relevant stakeholders. Based on this, a needs identification process and the development of a criteria catalog for marketable new business models are carried out. These are developed prototypically for various business branches and subjected to an acceptance analysis.

Results and Impact

        • Presentation of a scientifically founded analysis of the relevant ecosystem services in the context of mountain farming in the national park region as well as a data-based evaluation of the ecosystem services.
        • Development of practicable indicators, tools, and procedures for operational recording of the relevant ecosystem services.
        • Service potential of the farms and scaling of the findings to a regional level.
        • Provisioning costs for ecosystem services of mountain farming in regions like the National Park Upper Austrian Limestone Alps Region.
        • Theoretical groundwork for consumer/target group-suitable communication/mediation as a basis for a promising marketing of the total package of ecosystem services.
        • Development of potentially marketable business models including a catalog of criteria for the requirements of target groups.
        • Dissemination on a specially developed platform with marketing possibilities.
        • Potential income increases for the participating farmers.
        • euse/recovery of the acquired knowledge, especially for teaching and further education among the scientific partners.
        • Recommendations for action regarding the transferability of the approach or the results to similarly structured regions.


FH-Prof. MMag. Dr. Michael Schmidthaler
Wehrgrabengasse 1-3
4400 Steyr – Austria

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