Mountain farming sustains human well-being by providing various ecosystem services (ES). In the last decades, socio-economic developments have led to worldwide changes in land-use/cover (LULC), but the related effects on ES have not been fully explored. This study aimed at assessing the impacts of the transformation of agricultural land on ES in the European Alps. We mapped 19 ES within the agriculturally used areas in the year 2000 and analyzed LULC changes by 2018. We compared eight regions with a similar development, regarding social–ecological characteristics, to outline contrasting trends. Our results indicate that the ES decreased most strongly in regions with a massive abandonment of mountain grassland, while ES in the ‘traditional agricultural region’ remained the most stable. In regions with an intensification of agriculture, together with urban sprawl, ES had the lowest values. Across all regions, a shift from ES that are typically associated with mountain farming towards forest-related ES occurred, due to forest regrowth. By relating differing trends in ES to social–ecological developments, we can discuss our findings regarding new landscapes and farming systems across the European Alps. Our quantitative and spatially explicit findings provide a valuable basis for policy development, from the regional to the international/EU level, and for adopting sustainable management strategies.
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