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Classification of the Alpine area in agricultural structural types

The statistical analysis used in this project involves innovative research methods, which uses methodologies that have not been used previously: for 6,000 communes approximately 80 variables were collected which characterised sufficiently the economic, ecological and social context of mountain farming. Using different methods of cluster analysis, the alpine area was divided into eight different structural types. The methodology has had to be altered in order to obtain the classification of an agricultural structure in the Alps.

In selected regions which are representatives of the structural types the legal EU regulations and directives affecting both agriculture and the environment are evaluated. The basic and fundamental approach of the project is its interdisciplinary evaluation, therefore taking into consideration the context of a variety of economic, ecological and social factors in the respective regions. The project also includes an assessment of Agenda 2000 and its possible effects on European mountain agriculture, therefore bringing the project into a future dimension.

In order to classify the Alpine region different classifications were calculated based on the k-means-algorithm, a new algorithm, the so-called k-medoid-algorithm, was developed. It has the characteristic of not putting too much emphasis on the outliers, which are found in the data set, and seems to be a very suitable method of classification of the Alpine communities. In order to recognise which community belongs more to one group rather than another, the existing results which were classified by hard cluster. Algorithms were fuzzified. Therefore the different fuzzy algorithms were calculated, based on a starting partition produced by the hard algorithms. Consequently the classical fuzzy-c-means-algorithm was implemented and applied to our data. As a result a relative stable structure of eight different classes was achieved. A set of model regions was selected which are representative of the different classes found in the European Alpine region, with which the final evaluation of the current agricultural situation in the European Alps was made.

To observe the effects of the EU instruments on the model regions a number of interviews were made to both farmers and agricultural experts. The project's final results will allow the EU to gain a valuable insight in terms of the current agricultural tendencies in the European Alps. The specificity of mountain environments and of agricultural activity makes it so that mountain agriculture throughout the past few decades has experienced a decrease in activity as well as in agricultural population. This project allows the EU to consider what directives have a major impact on the area and on the activity and to act accordingly, This is vital to conserve not only a prosperous agricultural activity in the Alps but at the same time to maintain and protect the fragile mountain environment. Agriculture this way will find its deserved role in mountain communes throughout the European Alps, and reach a sustainable level of development in its communes.

Reported by

European Academy Bolzano/Bozen, Area III “Alpine Environment”
Domplatz 3
I-39100 Bozen
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