Land use (Liechtenstein)
Why should we care about this issue
a) Why should we care about this theme?
The land is simultaneously the basis of life for people and the habitat of threatened species. Particularly in such a small country as Liechtenstein, with a high proportion of alpine areas, land is a very limited commodity. Use for cultural and economic purposes and the interest in conserving habitats and species often conflict with each other. By interpreting aerial images and evaluating the data for the Land-use Statistics for the Principality of Liechtenstein, it can be seen that a great deal has happened between 1984 and 2008. In the last 24 years, the population of Liechtenstein has risen by over 30 %, which has greatly increased pressure on the valuable and non-renewable commodity that is land. Settlement areas increased to the same extent (33.8 %) between 1984 and 2008, largely at the expense of agricultural land and natural landscapes. Since the growth in population shows no sign of diminishing in the coming years, finding more cautious and more intelligent ways of dealing with this limited commodity is crucial. Changes in land use often lead to the disappearance of important insular habitats for threatened species and are often irreversible.
The state and impacts
b) What are the state (S) and impacts (I) related to this theme, including impacts on the natural environment and human health/human well-being, both at national level as well as in transboundary terms?
In recent years, major changes in land use have taken place in Liechtenstein compared with the rest of Europe. Between 1984 and 2008, artificial land use in the Principality of Liechtenstein increased continuously (unchecked) by 37 %, or 1.5 % per year. By contrast, the increase in settlement areas in Switzerland over the same period was ’only’ 1 %. Unlike in Liechtenstein, growth in Switzerland can be described as restricted.
Corine Land Cover Leichtenstein (2002)
The increase in artificial land use took place primarily at the expense of arable land, meadows and pastures. The area newly settled every year amounts to 17.75 ha. The development of settlements in the Principality of Liechtenstein has advanced continuously in the last 24 years. In the same period, agricultural areas have diminished by nearly 500 ha, roughly equivalent to the area of 1 000 football pitches. Areas covered by fruit trees (fruit plantations and field fruit) diminished by nearly 45 % during this timeframe. Built-up areas have increased by 56 % in 24 years, and surfaced areas by 37.5 %. Many natural events have also left their mark on the forest and unproductive areas: the storms ’Vivian’ and above all ’Lothar’ caused major damage, whilst flooding and landslides (July 1995, Triesenberg) have left behind lasting damage and altered many stream beds (Stägerbach, Samina). Avalanches (February 1999, Malbun) have torn up trees and even many houses.
Example of settlement development in Liechtenstein
The key drivers and pressures
c) What are the related key drivers (D) and pressures (P) at national level?
A constantly growing population and a dramatically rising GNP were, in relation to an increasing demand for building land, probably the main factors in recent decades in Liechtenstein, with land consumption increasing considerably faster than population growth.
In 2008, 75 % of all new housing was planned as single-unit construction, which leads not only to increasing living space requirements per person, but also to an unnecessarily rapid increase in settlement areas, and drives the price of land up further.
The theoretical capacity calculated for areas currently identified for development is sufficient for more than 100 000 inhabitants (population at end of 2009: approximately 36 000). These excessively large areas for development lead to a pronounced urban sprawl with all of its negative concomitants, such as for example an increased need for road infrastructure and, hand in hand with that, increasing traffic congestion.
In addition, road construction, large projects (e.g. golf courses), intensification of agriculture and abandonment of use of marginal land all pose a threat to the landscape. Above all, the small scale, relief and intricacy of the land, and the rapid alternation between close and distant objects are perceived as aesthstetically appealing.
The 2020 outlook
d) What is the 2020 outlook (date flexible) for the topic in question and how will this affect possible impacts on the natural environment and human health/well-being?
In view of the present economic crisis, it is difficult to see how things will develop in the future. However, official forecasts assume continuing development of the population and, in the longer term, further economic growth. This will keep up the pressure on the land, and there is the risk of a massive increase in the negative impact on Liechtenstein’s biodiversity.
Existing and planned responses
e) Which responses (R) have been put in place or are planned at national level for the theme in question?
In 2009, Liechtenstein compiled and adopted a report on biodiversity, on the basis of which the biodiversity strategy is currently being developed, with appropriate goals and the necessary measures for implementation.
A Development Concept for Nature and Agriculture has been produced, which forms the basis for the Structure Plan for Nature and Agriculture as part of the country’s National Structure Plan.
The country’s National Structure Plan constitutes the policy framework illustrating the country’s essential interests and objectives in the field of land-use planning. It serves as a basis for positive and sustainable development of Liechtenstein as a living space and economic area. The National Structure Plan consists of a Structure Plan Map and Structure Plan Report and is broken down into the four subject areas of settlement, agriculture, nature and landscape, traffic and supply/disposal. It was adopted by the Government in July 2007 after having been developed over several years. The National Structure Plan gives priority to regional and also cross-border plans that require a great deal of coordination. The local authorities remain responsible for local plans. The national offices concerned with land-use problems are obliged to bring planning projects with land-use implications into line with the National Structure Plan. The map and the text of the Structure Plan are to be regarded as a unit. Anything stated therein can be interpreted correctly only by evaluating both elements.
In the past ten years, agriculture in Liechtenstein has been characterised by a phase of intense extensification and ’greening’. Amongst other things, the provisions laid down in agrarian legislation have been crucial for this. The move towards ’greening’ is achieved through incentives (compensation), fiats and prohibitions, and has elevated agriculture to a high level in ecological terms. The maintenance and preservation of the cultivated landscape are important tasks of agriculture. The Law on Compensation for Ecological and Animal-Friendly Performance in Agriculture came into force in 1996. Within a few years almost all of the farms entitled to direct payments have converted to either ’Integrated Production’ (66 % in 2007) or organic production (27.6 % in 2007). The proportion of organic farms represents an international record (12 % in Switzerland).
- Land-use Statistics for the Principality of Liechtenstein 1984 – 1996 – 2002 — http://www.llv.li/schlussbericht_84_96_02.pdf
- Illustration of Corine Landcover Liechtenstein 2002 – http://www.eea.europa.eu/data-and-maps/figures/corine-land-cover-2000-by-country
- Illustration of settlement development – http://www.llv.li/pdf-llv-slp-gesamtdokument_klein_0307-3.pdf
For references, please go to www.eea.europa.eu/soer or scan the QR code.
This briefing is part of the EEA's report The European Environment - State and Outlook 2015. The EEA is an official agency of the EU, tasked with providing information on Europe’s environment.
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