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Swiss National Park
Parc Naziunal Svizzer

First Listed

2021

Area
170.00km2

Why is it Green Listed?

Established in 1914 in the canton of the Grisons, it is the oldest park in Central Europe. It is designated as a Strict Nature Reserve (IUCN Category Ia) and forms part of the UNESCO Biosphere Reserve Engiadina Val Müstair. The park covers 170 km2 of forests, subalpine and alpine meadows, and rock and scree. Nationally-threatened species such as golden eagle (Aquila chrysaetos) and bearded vulture (Gypaetus barbatus) breed within its borders.

The 100km of hiking trails within the SNP are used by approximately 120’000 visitors annually. The park is only accessible during the summer months on foot, on designated routes only and no dogs are permitted. The vivid park rangers enforce compliance with these strict rules. The visitor centre in Zernez (outside the park area) provides insights into the tasks of the SNP and furthers people’s understanding for the protection of natural processes

To now belong to the exclusive group of green listed protected areas in the world is a great honor for the Swiss National Park. We hope that we can inspire many other organizations in Switzerland to apply for this valuable label. 

Ruedi haller, Swiss National Park Director

Key Achievements

Conservation

  • The main goal is the protection of natural processes- the primary objective of an IUCN 1a area – which is planned on a strategic bases with annual implementation plans. For the last 100 years, the 170 Km2 Park area have been used for scientific research and the more than 2000 Publications substantially influenced common understanding of the Apine region. The focus is on allowing natural processes, not on management to protect single species or communities. We added one of the 2000 publications to show how we are contributing to conservation, not through “invasive” management but by keeping the pristine forest intact and follow the process evolution. The attachment “nahrungsnetze_snp” shows the relationship between producers, consumers and destructors in the food web of the Swiss National Park. 

Good governance

  • The Swiss National Park is a foundation under public and the governance body includes the stakeholders (mainly the municipalities) in the region. Since the Park has applied for recognition within the framework of modern park legislation (NHG, Art 23e -m), the municipalities are even better involved and in the meantime, all but two of the municipalities in the Lower and Upper Engadine decided to make a financial contribution to the Park. These contributions are in turn essential levers for substantially larger contributions from the federal government and the cantons. The municipal representatives interviewed at the stakeholder event note a positive development, especially in recent years.

Community benefits

  • The aims of the National Park are threefold: nature development without human influence, research on natural processes, and visitor information, whereby research and information are in line with the protection goals. The visitor information presents the actual research to the visitors and raises awareness for the impacts of climate change on nature. The new Visitor center built outside the Park is a possibility to present the scientific research in the Park and to attract visitors to the region, generating an additional 20 Million Swiss Francs annually for the valley.

Site Attributes

WDPA ID

Size
170.00km2

Designation(s)
UNESCO-MAB Biosphere Reserve

IUCN Category
Ia - Strict Nature Reserve

Year Established
1914

Marine Protected Area
No

Governance Type
Federal or national ministry or agency

Site Agency
Eidgenössische Nationalparkkommission

Site Manager
Ruedi Haller

Application
2020-03-02

EAGL Evaluation
18/11/2020

GL Committee Submission
17/12/2020

EAGL Chair
Bertrand de Montmollin

ASI Reviewer
Marnie Bammert

Site Summary

The Swiss National Park (SNP) is an IUCN category 1a area. It borders on the Regional Natural Park ‘Biosfera Val Mustair’ and, together with other parts of the municipality of Scuol, they form the Biosphere Reserve ‘Engiadina Val Mustair’.

The SNP was established in 1914. The founders wanted to leave a piece of nature to itself and protect it from human influence.
The SNP covers an area of 170 km2. One third is covered by forests, predominantly mountain pine (Pinus mugo). Larch (Larix decidua), spruce (Picea abies) and cembra pine (Pinus cembra) also occur. Another third of the park’s surface area consists of subalpine and alpine meadows. Both forest and meadow habitats were shaped by human use for centuries before the park was founded. The remainder of the park area is made up of rock and scree.
Red deer (Cervus elaphus), Alpine chamois (Rupicapra rupicapra) and Alpine ibex (Capra ibex) are the large mammals characterising the image of the SNP. Six golden eagle (Aquila chrysaetos) and five bearded vulture (Gypaetus barbatus) pairs regularly breed in the SNP. The occasional capercaillie (Tetrao urogallus) occurs in the forests, black grouse (Lylurus tetrix) can be found anywhere at the upper forest edges, and ptarmigan (Lagopus muta) above the timberline. Currently, a single wolf is living mainly within the park’s perimeter.
The 100km of hiking trails within the SNP are used by approximately 120’000 visitors annually. The park is only accessible during the summer months on foot, on designated routes only and no dogs are permitted. The vivid park rangers enforce compliance with these strict rules. The visitor centre in Zernez (outside the park area) provides insights into the tasks of the SNP and furthers people’s understanding for the protection of natural processes.

1. Natural Values
MONITORING OF VALUES
THRESHOLDS OF SUCCESS
CONDITION OF VALUES
SUMMARY OF TRENDS AND RESULTS
Natural processes are protected in the Swiss National Park.
As only natural processes are protected in the Swiss National Park, the management is not working with thresholds for success on species but through keeping the pristine forest in his natural state without human influence.
The core area is in good natural condition and all processes can take place
We want to use the unique chance of the National Park for long-term research. Research projects provide insights into natural processes within the park area and the cultural landscape in its surroundings, as well as the relationship between humans and nature. We initiate research projects, coordinate them in the Research Commission and conduct our own surveys to show long-term trends.
2. Ecosystem Service Values
MONITORING OF VALUES
THRESHOLDS OF SUCCESS
CONDITION OF VALUES
SUMMARY OF TRENDS AND RESULTS
The focus is put on forest as stabilizing element in mountain areas that amongst other services (water retention) protect lower lands from avalanches and the like.
Climate change factors influencing forest eco-system stability.
Very good natural state
Evidence of a rising forest and tree line in altitude, see publication: https://www.atlasnationalpark.ch/de/themenbeitrag/waldgrenze, or on temperature stress on plants: https://www.atlasnationalpark.ch/de/themenbeitrag/gloria-berggipfel-pflanzen-im-waermestresstest; or on the succession of plants on a alpine meadow https://www.atlasnationalpark.ch/de/themenbeitrag/sukzession-alpweide
3. Cultural Values
MONITORING OF VALUES
THRESHOLDS OF SUCCESS
CONDITION OF VALUES
SUMMARY OF TRENDS AND RESULTS
Pristine mountain forest as important cultural value for humanity
Persistence of pristine mountain forest for more than 100 years
Pristine mountain forest in good natural condition
The National Park wants to make it possible for visitors to experience unspoilt nature and thus kindle their joy for it, as well as their understanding for its protection. In the visitor center outside the Park, the visitors are introduced to the Research in the Park and receive information on special features of the area in order to become ambassadors for the National Park idea and the protection of nature in general.

Conservation Summary

Outcome of EAGL Vote on Site
Consensus

EAGL Summary 
GENERAL For the last 100 years, The Swiss National Park was a reference laboratory for the entire Alpine region with more than 2000 scientific papers published (http://www.parcs.ch/snp/publications.php) and a easy to understand Research Atlas covering the most important research results out of the last 100 years (https://www.atlasnationalpark.ch/node/393).

The National Park has been able to keep the area in a natural state, document all relevant natural processes and help to better understand actual influences such as climate change. The published results are one of the core values of the SNP regarding the ecology of the Alps.

GOOD GOVERNANCE The Swiss National Park is a foundation under public law and the park has developed several ways to include the stakeholders in the region. The basis is the representation of the municipalities in the Swiss National Park Commission, the body which defines the mission of the Park. In addition, there is a regular exchange between representatives of the neighboring municipalities, the representatives in the cantonal parliament and the Park. With the decision that the Park has applied for recognition within the framework of modern park legislation (NHG, Art 23e -m), the municipalities have also been more closely involved. The municipal representatives interviewed at the stakeholder event note a very positive development, especially in recent years.

SOUND DESIGN AND PLANNING The Swiss National Park works with an annual plan, which is approved by the National Park Commission together with the budget. Based on this plan, the protection of natural processes- the primary objective of an IUCN 1a area – is optimally implemented by the Park Authority and is reached for the entire 170 km park area and influences the adjacent areas. The Swiss National Park borders on the Regional Natural Park ‘Biosfera Val Mustair’, which together with other parts of the municipality of Scuol form the Biosphere Reserve ‘Engiadina Val Mustair’. The different but complementary approaches in the areas with different IUCN categories are mutually reinforcing and ensure that the economic and social aspects of sustainability, which were not present in the original National Park objectives, have gained considerable importance. The Park has also built a visitor center outside the Park area where the visitor can not only see the beauty of the region but also learn more on actual Park research. The Visitor Center and the Park generate 19.7 Million Swiss francs p.a. additional income for the region (see attachment: Wertschöpfung SNP) .

EFFECTIVE MANAGEMENT The biggest challenge for the SNP is Non-Intervention Management. It requires a lot of data collection, planning, supervision, and good cooperation with all players in the region to make a non-intervention policy as comprehensively as possible. The work of research has guaranteed that developments in the field of SNP and, in part, beyond are documented in a unique way. This documentation and the knowledge associated with it, at the beginning exclusively scientific but later more and more beyond, forms the basis and guarantee for knowledge-based management. The SNP is also known for its geographical information system. The interest in and proximity to new digital development foster effective management, for example Park visitors are automatically recorded using electronic counting mats and the Park Rangers can use real time information for their work

POSITIVE CONSERVATION OUTCOMES The Swiss National Park is a reference laboratory for the Alpine region. Thanks to the good scientific documentation, it has been able to document the natural development for more than 100 years now and in this context, it can perceive and understand modern influences such as climate change much more clearly. This is one of the core values of the SNP with regard to the ecology of the Alps. There is no doubt that protection of natural processes- the primary objective of an IUCN 1 a area – is optimally implemented. This applies to the 170 km core zone and is further supported by its integration into a biosphere reserve. Both conceptually and in practice, the park is also very active in large-scale ecological connectivity. (e.g. Alp Bionet – see Panorama Solution). Together with the Stilfserjoch National Park over the border in Italy, and in a larger context with many other Alpine protected areas. The National Park is an important part of the alpine habitat system, especially for animals with high spatial requirements.

CONCLUSION The Park is a flagship for PA governance and sound design and planning, allowing biodiversity output through a non-intervention policy which is rarely to be found around the world.

Reviewer Summary
Overall, the Swiss EAGL carried a thorough assessment of the Swiss National Park and followed all prescribed process steps. Stakeholders were invited to contribute to the site’s assessment about 4 weeks in advance of the visit to the park, using direct mailings and a posting on the website of the Swiss IUCN Committee. 2 EAGL members conducted a 2-day visit to the park together with the Implementing Partner. They met with representatives from adjacent municipalities, a hotel owner (the only stakeholder residing in the park), a representative from the surrounding biosphere reserve, a regional development agency and park staff. A field trip was carried out during the visit, focusing on visitor management and information, monitoring and protection of natural processes. The full suite of 50 Green List indicators and the park’s performance evidence was reviewed by the 2 EAGL members together with the park’s management. During the final EAGL assessment meeting, updated Declarations of Interest were requested from all EAGL members by the EAGL chair, it was established that none of the EAGL members have a conflict of interest in relation to the site, and it was noted that 1 out of 8 EAGL members was absent. The Implementing Partner participated in the meeting as well. The 2 EAGL members who visited the park reported back to the group on their experience. They noted that there was a lively conversation with stakeholders, confirming good levels of acceptance of the park among local communities despite the constraints that come with a strictly protected area. An engaged discussion on all 17 criteria of the Green List Standard ensued. Monitoring and research, scientific collaboration, governance, climate change, visitor levels, stakeholder engagement and also gender aspects were the focus of the conversation. In particular, the EAGL explored the fact that this is a 1a category park with a strict non-intervention policy. They concluded that the establishment of thresholds is not conducive for this type of protected area and all agreed that the Green List Standard does not lend itself well to non-intervention areas. The Swiss EAGL calls on IUCN and its Standard Committee to provide guidance or review the Standard with 1a category PAs in mind. The outstanding research and monitoring, use of GIS and public accessibility of scientific information was noted as an outstanding feature of the park (see https://www.atlasnationalpark.ch/de, available in German and French). The EAGL unanimously voted to recommend the Swiss National Park for inclusion on the Green List. The Reviewer supports their recommendation.

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