Looking downstream along one of the seven Mont Blanc valleys, Montjoie (Les Contamines, French Alps, 2007).  © BRGM - François Michel

RockTheAlps: preventing rock-fall risks through sustainable forest management

The BRGM is a partner in the RockTheAlps project, funded by the EU Regional Development Fund (ERDF) via the Alpine Space programme and coordinated by IRSTEA (France). RockTheAlps is a project aiming to strengthen implementation of the policy to prevent rock-falls through sustainable forest management. An initial step towards this goal will be the production of a harmonised map of all rock-fall risks and protective forests in the Alpine area.

Interreg Alpine Space RockTheAlps

Sustaining the protective role of forests against natural risks

In natural risk management and disaster reduction, it is now recognised that the role of forests, under certain conditions, is potentially equivalent to that of civil engineering techniques. In the Alpine area especially, plant cover engineering could reduce risks to an acceptable level. This is particularly true for land movement risks, where the stability of slopes, for example, can be improved by plant cover that limits water infiltration, strengthens shallow terrain and reduces erosion and sedimentation in catchment basins.  It is also true for protection against avalanche risks, where large forested areas permanently reduce the chances of triggering an avalanche.

Preserving and improving the protective role of forests against natural risks is essential to any effective strategy to strengthen the resilience of the Alpine area. The 6 Pan-European ministerial conferences on forest protection held since 1990 have all underlined the need for a common approach to assess forest ecosystem services as a basis for developing sustainable forest management.

An interdisciplinary partnership for the Alpine area as a whole

Building on an interdisciplinary partnership for the Alpine area as a whole, the RockTheAlps projects will be capitalising on  knowledge acquired under previous EU projects to achieve new objectives that include a regional zoning tool for rock-fall risks and an initial harmonised map of associated risks and protective forests. This project is helping to improve Action 8 in the EUSALP programme (on improving risk management) and Action 5 in the Europe 2020 strategy for biodiversity (Map/data displays: SEF).

The BRGM's role in the project draws on its expertise in geology and its capacities for analysing risks associated with rock-falls: analysis of past events, geological data products, pre-analysis of risks, econometric assessments of risk mitigation strategies. The BRGM will also relay project information to national and local risk management agencies in France.

The project results will support local, regional, national and EU authorities responsible for risk prevention involving forest management. A transnational interdisciplinary partnership has been set up with an ERDF budget of 1.86 M€.


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