The 50 Most Important Questions Relating to the Maintenance and Restoration of an Ecological Continuum in the European Alps
The European Alps harbour a unique and species-rich biodiversity, which is increasingly impacted by habitat fragmentation through land-use changes, urbanization and expanding transport infrastructure. In this study, we identified the 50 most important questions relating to the maintenance and restoration of an ecological continuum – the connectedness of ecological processes across many scales including trophic relationship and disturbance processes and hydro-ecological flows in the European Alps. We initiated and implemented a trans-national priority setting exercise, inviting 48 institutions including researchers, conservation practitioners, NGOs, policymakers and administrators from the Alpine region. The exercise was composed of an initial call for pertinent questions, a first online evaluation of the received questions and a final discussion and selection process during a joint workshop. The participating institutions generated 484 initial questions, which were condensed to the 50 most important questions by 16 workshop participants. We suggest new approaches in tackling the issue of an ecological continuum in the Alps by analysing and classifying the characteristics of the resulting questions in a non-prioritized form as well as in a visual conceptualisation of the inter-dependencies among these questions. This priority setting exercise will support research and funding institutions in channelling their capacities and resources towards questions that need to be urgently addressed in order to facilitate significant progress in biodiversity conservation in the European Alps.