ProMontesPrize 2020

for the future of the alpine cultural landscape


Award of the Swiss Foundation for Alpine Research

in collaboration with WSL & FoLAP


Award ceremony on the occasion of the


Conference Young Landscape Research

Monday 15 June 2020, WSL Birmensdorf


Every two years the Swiss Foundation for Alpine Research (SFAR) awards prizes for outstanding achievements by young researchers in securing the future of the Alpine cultural landscape. Their open-land biotopes provide habitats for almost a third of the plant and animal species of the Alpine arc. In order to ensure a comprehensive future of the Alpine biodiversity spectrum, the award is therefore given primarily to work that, on the one hand, investigates the multiple causes of the decline of open-land biotopes and, on the other hand, develops practical methods for reactivating the species richness of the cultural landscape.

The ProMontesPrize, PMP 2020, will be awarded during the meeting Young Landscape Research, JuLaFo, on 15 June 2020 at the Federal Research Institute WSL in Birmensdorf.

Works and projects on the following topics are eligible for the award:

  • Research work on the transformation of the Alpine cultural landscape
  • Research work on social & economic aspects
  • Research work and projects to revitalize the cultural landscape in the Alpine region
  • Research work on concrete measures in the agricultural and forestry sector, in tourism, transport and energy production, in politics and jurisdiction and on socio-economic conditions that serve to promote the Alpine cultural landscape


Keywords on research work and projects:

Avalanche couloirs; Biodiversity; Biosphere reserves; Climate change; Combating bushes with goats, sheeps, highland cattle; Cultural tradition & modernity; Direct payments ecologically oriented; Dry meadows and pastures; Energy production; Fallows; Flexibility in forest clearing; Flood protection; Floodplains; Folkloristics; Forest grazing through clearing; Glaciers lakes; Ground-nesting birds; Green alder control; Hazards, natural & technological; Heath; Hiking trail networks; Intensive agriculture; Jobs in the periphery; Land abandonment; Landscape architecture; Large herbivores; Large predators; Loss of cultivated land worldwide; Mountain huts; Moors; Metropolisation; Nature conservation vs. trad. agriculture; Open land biotopes; Outward migration; Pasture damage; Permafrost; Protective forest; Public service; Recultivation + renaturation = revitalization; Reforestation; Reutilization; Settlement pressure; Slope slides; Slope terraces; Spatial requirements of nature and man; Summer grazing; Scrub encroachment; Silting; Tourism; Trampling damage; Traffic routes; Voluntary work to preserve alpine meadows; Wilderness vs. alpine cultural landscape


Applications are open to researchers from universities and universities of applied sciences as well as private and contract researchers from Switzerland with dissertations, master's and bachelor's theses or completed contract projects. The projects must relate to Switzerland. The age limit is 35 years (justified exceptions are possible). The German, French or English work must have been completed between April 2018 and March 2020.

Participation and presentation of the work at the JuLaFo conference is also a prerequisite for application.

Registration on the JuLaFo website by 31 March 2020 at the latest:

Document download on the PMP website:


On the recommendation of the jury, the SFAR Board of Trustees, supplemented by experts from WSL & FoLAP, nominates a maximum of 5 applications for a presentation at the JuLaFo conference. The selection is based on three criteria:

  • Scientific quality of the work,
  • Relevance for the topic Alpine cultural landscape,
  • Relevance for practice.

The winner will be selected from the nominees based on the presentation at the PMP/JuLaFo conference on 15 June 2020 at the Federal Research Institute WSL in Birmensdorf.

Prize money and project support

The prize money is 3'000 Swiss francs. In addition, a follow-up project to the award-winning work will be supported with up to CHF 20'000 upon written application.

Contact / Information:

Schweizerischen Stiftung für Alpine Forschung, Stadelhoferstrasse 42, CH-8001 Zürich
Tel: +41-44-253 12 00 | Fax: +41-44-253 12 01 | E-mail:


SFAR, Swiss Foundation for Alpine Research
JuLaFo, Young Landscape Research
WSL, Swiss Federal Institute for Forest, Snow and Landscape Research
FoLAP, Forum Landscape, Alps, Parks

Flyer ProMontesPrize 2020 (PDF, 130KB)




Pro Montes Prize 2018


For the future of the alpine cultural landscape


The ProMontes Prize of the Swiss Foundation for Alpine Research, SSAF, was awarded on Thursday, March 1, 2018 in Fribourg, during the Phil. Alp Conference of the Interacademic Commission for Alpine Studies, ICAS.


The winner is Denise Binggeli*, student at the Institute for natural, landscape, environmental conservation of the University of Basel.


In her Master’s thesis regarding the “successful recultivation of the abandoned terraced landscape of the Tessin Alps” (“Erfolgreiche Wiederbewirtschaftung von verlassenen Terrassenlandschaften in den Tessiner Alpen”), Miss Binggeli demonstrated that the initiatives of local Tessin organizations to revitalize terraced vineyards and grass landscapes are able to stop further reforestation, renew landscape diversity, and increase biodiversity. Miss Binggeli studied the extent to which the biodiversity of vascular plants on terraces that have been in constant use for 100 years differs from that on terraces that have only been recultivated for 10-15 Jahren in the Maggia, Onsernone, & Rovana valleys. Her encouraging results showed that there was practically no difference in plant diversity – provided that the terraces did not lie fallow for too long as otherwise the characteristic meadowland varieties are displaced by shade-tolerant varieties. Naturally, other types of organisms such as insects, reptiles, and birds also benefit from this revitalization of the traditional, extensively cultivated vineyards, meadows, and pastures in the Tessin Alps.


With her research, Miss Binggeli provided scientific proof that recultivation of abandoned areas can prevent the increased expansion of the forest and thus prevent a decrease in plant diversity.


The ProMontes Prize, with a value of 3,000 Francs recognizes this research as an important contribution for safeguarding the future of the alpine cultural landscape. Upon application, an additional 20,000 Francs will be granted for further, project-related research.




The Swiss Foundation for Alpine Research feels compelled to specifically promote the research for safeguarding the future of the culture-based alpine landscapes because they are not taken into account sufficiently by the established conservation initiatives, in contrast to the natural forest and moor landscapes.

Since the 20th century, many rapid upheavals have also occurred in the Alpine region. For example, the mountain forest was largely able to recover from the ruthless exploitation in the 19th century and the grassy landscape of the alpine level also benefited from conservation measures. On the other hand, the traditional cultural landscape has been suffering up to today from a wide variety of development trends of recent decades. With the development of tourism and transport, new job opportunities have arisen for the mountain population which have made landscape conservation negligible. However, the biggest threat to the alpine cultural landscape and to the third of its biodiversity spectrum which is dependent on it arises from the existence or non-existence of agriculture itself. On the one hand, its intensification of profitable locations leads to the decline of species. On the other hand, the management task also leads to the decline of species because of the competitive reforestation where the lack of jobs and public service force migration.

Safeguarding the future for the alpine cultural landscape requires a whole set of measures; from innovative private commitments to paving the way through legislation.

The Swiss Foundation for Alpine Research is hoping that this set of measures can be supplemented with new insights from junior research.

In the interests of the objective of the ProMontesPrize:


Alpine Biodiversity instead of Alpine Fallow Land!


Article en français





Pro Montes Prize 2016

For the future of the alpine cultural landscape

zwinkernder Steinbock

Pro Montes Prize 2016 – PMP 2016

The ProMontesPrize of the Swiss Foundation for Alpine Research was awarded for the third time on April 28, 2016 in Luzern, during the Phil. Alp Conference of the Interacademic Commission for Alpine Studies, ICAS.

The winner is Benjamin Dietre, doctoral candidate at the Institute for Botany of the University of Innsbruck.

His work regarding the impact of pastoral agriculture on the biodiversity of the alpine landscape of the Lower Engadin during the past 10,000 years (''Einfluss der Weidewirtschaft auf die Biodiversität der alpinen Landschaft des Unterengadins während den letzten 10'000 Jahren'') ("Impact de l’agro-pastoralisme sur la biodiversité des paysages alpins de la Basse Engadine pendant les 10’000 dernières années.") provides a meticulous look at the historical development of the alpine open habitats resulting from the rise of alpine pastoral agriculture.

Primarily with the aid of pollen analysis in peat bog layers, he was able to reconstruct the evolution of the Holocene vegetation for a period of more than 10,000 years for the region of the Silvretta Massif between Paznaun and the Lower Engadin. The natural climatic oscillations of the Holocene and the agricultural land use beginning 6,000 years ago during the Neolithic Period were identified as the greatest forces for change in the vegetation – also demonstrated by proxy data from soil studies and dendrochronology and the archaeological site above 1800 MAMSL. With the transition to the Bronze Age and later during the Roman Period and during the Medieval Warm Period, the percentage of cultivated land and thus the habitat for the fauna and flora of open landscapes increased continuously due to field cultivation and slash-and-burn land clearance.

The course of history seems to be reversing the trend of the alpine cultural landscape and its open habitats. We hope that this botanical-stratigraphic survey of the Holocene will shed light on what we stand to lose if we do not win the battle against the loss of agricultural land.

The ProMontes Prize, with a value of 5,000 Swiss Francs recognizes this research as an important contribution for safeguarding the future of the alpine cultural landscape. To encourage further research, this year, for the first time, the winner also receives project-related support in the form of 20,000 Swiss Francs, as long as a follow-up research project is submitted that fulfils the PMP criteria.






Jubilee publication to commemorate the Swiss Foundation for Alpine Research's 75th anniversary


To mark its 75th anniversary, our Foundation will publish a book in April 2014. One half of the book will be a retrospective of early archive material from the days of the first research expeditions. The other half will provide an insight into the research topics to which the Supervisory Board is currently directing its efforts. Table of contents


The book launch will take place at 6 p.m. on Friday, April 11, 2014.It will be held at the Swiss Alpine Museum in Bern.


Helvetiaplatz 4
CH-3005 Bern
Phone: +41 31 350 04 40

No application recquired



To mark its 75th anniversary, the Swiss Foundation for Alpine Research is also organising a two-day excursion with Christian Schlüchter, Emeritus Professor at the University of Bern's Institute of Geological Sciences. Professor Schlüchter's particular area of expertise is quaternary and environmental geology.


If you would like to take part in this excursion, please write to
The number of available places is limited.




Pro Montes Prize 2014


2014 ProMontesPrize


The Pro Montes Prize is a cash prize of 2,000 Swiss francs, which is awarded to a young research scientist (under 35) for outstanding work in the field of alpine research. Its purpose is to make a significant contribution to ensuring a viable future for the alpine landscape that has been shaped by man. One third of all the species of flora and fauna found in Switzerland's mountains depend for their survival on the heat and light provided by the centuries-old treeless habitats which mankind has created in the alpine regions. It is therefore vitally important to encourage and support research aimed at finding new ways of securing a future for this man-made alpine landscape which is also harmonious with efforts to protect the natural, uncultivated environment.


The "Phil.Alp – The Alps as seen by young research scientists" conference will take place on the 5th and 6th of June 2014 in Bern.


ICAS (the Inter-Academic Commission for Alpine Research) invites applications from young research scientists wishing to present a scientific paper or a Science Slam at the conference. Applications must be submitted no later than February 28, 2014. The doctoral dissertation or master's thesis on which the presentation or science slam is based must have been completed between June 2012 and May 2014.


The winner of the Swiss Foundation for Alpine Research's 2014 ProMontesPrize (for projects ensuring the long-term conservation of man-made alpine landscapes) will also be chosen at the Phil.Alp conference. The deadline for entries for this prize is also February 28, 2014.


Entry forms and other documentation are available, in German and French only, on: OR


The Swiss Foundation for Alpine Research has chosen to devote its support specifically to research into ensuring the future of the man-made alpine environment, since these landscapes – in contrast to the alpine woodland and moorland not cultivated by mankind – have derived insufficient benefit from more established environmental-protection initiatives.


The rapid changes which occurred during the 20th century also encompassed the alpine regions. While the Alps' forests were largely able to re-establish themselves after the massive exploitation of their resources seen in the 19th century, and while alpine pasturelands undoubtedly also benefited from 20th-century environmental-protection measures, it is also the case that a number of development trends witnessed over the last few decades continue to exert an adverse effect on the traditional alpine man-made landscape to this day. The expansion of tourism and transport in the Alps has created employment opportunities for the mountain population which have impinged on their husbandry of the landscape. In fact, however, it is agriculture itself which poses the greatest threat to the alpine landscape fashioned over the centuries by mankind and to the third of all species of alpine flora and fauna which depend on that environment for their survival. On the one hand, the more intensive farming methods being used in the most commercially viable areas are reducing the number of species that can survive there. On the other hand, in areas whose populations are dwindling as a result of insufficient employment opportunities and a lack of public services, the natural reafforestation of land which is now no longer farmed is also contributing to reduced biodiversity.


Securing the future of man-made alpine landscapes requires an entire spectrum of measures, ranging from innovative private initiatives to the enactment of appropriate legislation.The Swiss Foundation for Alpine Research has decided to contribute one element to this mosaic by supporting research into all matters relating to the long-term preservation of man-made alpine landscapes.


The Swiss Foundation for Alpine Research's Pro Montes Prize was first awarded on June 6, 2012 in Thun, on the occasion of the Phil.Alp Conference organised by ICAS (the Inter-Academic Commission for Alpine Research).

The prize was first won by Aline Andrey, who wrote her doctoral dissertation at the University of Bern's Institute of Ecology and Evolution. The subject her dissertation, which was written in French, was the short-term effects of fertilisation and irrigation on biodiversity in sub-alpine hay meadows (Effets à court terme de la fertilisation et de l'irrigation sur la biodiversité des prairies de fauches en milieu subalpin).

Aline Andrey was able to demonstrate that when very sparse hay meadows are treated with a combination of limited quantities of manure and sprinkler irrigation, this enables them, in less than one year, not only to produce greater quantities of hay but also to increase their biodiversity. Future research in this area will determine the optimum calibration of manure fertilisation and sprinkler irrigation required for the best possible outcomes in terms of hay output and biodiversity.


The objective, in a nutshell, is to achieve alpine diversity rather than alpine monotony.