Camonica Valley communities innovate, adapting to climate change with sustainable practices beyond tourism.

Climate change impacts are already visible in mountains, which are more sensitive than lowland areas. This affects the essential ecosystem services that mountains provide, and that humans need, such as water, forests, agriculture, and tourism.

REVOLVE visited the Camonica Valley, located halfway across the mountainous Lombardy and Trentino Italian regions. The upper part of the Valley’s borders is blurred between several natural parks, such as the stunning Stelvio National Park, opening a door to the heart of the Alps. The effects of climate change are tangible here through soil erosion, changes in vegetation and tree populations, and permafrost degradation, among others. The Park is suffering from hydrogeological instability, and water-stressed monoculture areas are affected by droughts. The socio-economic consequences are also evident in sectors such as forestry and tourism.

Rising temperatures led to the expansion of the bark beetle invasive species, which has been estimated to cause €132 billion in economic loss.
A red deer drinks water in a wildlife area inside the Stelvio National Park.

Landslide frequency increased due to big storms that are also more and more frequent and with an intensity never registered before. Storm Vaia hit Italy in October 2018 causing massive damages all over the country. Alpine forests in the northeast were especially affected, with winds gusting up to 200 kilometres per hour. 8.7 million cubic metres of forests were destroyed, the equivalent of the annual harvesting in Lombardy, a region that produces 2/3 of all Italian timber. On the economic side, the wood market is now saturated due to the price dropping and the lack of a proper infrastructure.

A lot of wood remains on the ground since Storm Vaia hit the region in 2018.
Regional authorities intervened to replant and restore the forest after the storms.

The Presena Glacier once was the scene of fierce battles between the Italians and the Austro-Hungarians during the First World War, here also denominated White War, due to the prominence of the snow and the harsh climate conditions. Since 1969, it was used not only for winter but also for summer skiing, they covered it with technological rolls of geotextile fabric to maintain the mass of the glacier and avoid too much melting in the summer. In the last 20 years summer skiing has not been possible anymore due to the mass decreasing. A study carried out by the Science Museum of Trento in 2021 projects 2070-2075 as the years by which the glacier will disappear.

Each year, a loss of 600.000 m² of ice mass is registered in the Presena Glacier.
Mountains provide natural resources and ecosystem services, such as water and energy, also for communities that do not live in mountain areas.
Climate change is already affecting winter tourism, on which many local economies depend, and these effects are only expected to increase.
The Pontedilegno-Tonale ski area, located right in the border between the Camonica Valley and the Stelvio National Park.

The Camonica Valley is one of the most extensive valleys of the central Alps, bordering the Stelvio National Park. This Biosphere Reserve is characterized by its vegetation community richness, but several factors related to both climate and soil are leading to the progressive abandonment of the land, with a long farming and animal husbandry tradition. Between 2002 and 2011, a total of 246 wildfires caused a forest’s loss of about 160 ha/yr-1 in the Camonica Valley, where the vast fuel mass triggered the fire expansion.

Municipalities and local businesses saw in these circumstances an opportunity to re-naturalize the area and diversify their business models. They are adapting to a different management of natural resources such as water and energy supply through hydropower, and they are working on decreasing their reliance on tourism and offering some more sustainable summer and off-season tourism options.

The Camonica Valley presents a set of species growing in a specific space and time in a dynamic equilibrium.
The Adamello Park, which covers 60% of the Camonica Valley area, presents 74 forest ecosystem types, classified into 21 wood categories.
Nature conservation initiatives will have to deal with water supply and territorial management of rivers.
The local community is also contributing to the area’s climate change adaptation.
A farmer cuts Silter cheese, a protected designation of origin (PDO) cheese ecologically produced in the Camonica Valley.