Introduction: Drivers of change in upland environments: concepts, threats and opportunities
Uplands are globally a crucial source of ecosystem services, such as provision of food and fibre, water supply, climate regulation, maintenance of biodiversity, as well as providing opportunities for recreation, inspiration and cultural heritage (see Box 1.1). They are often of exceptional natural beauty, centres of species distinctiveness and richness, and historically have been extensively managed for food production owing to difficult terrain and thus low productivity. This is reflected in the fact that most upland regions in Europe, as well as globally, receive national and international conservation designations. In addition, the uplands provide livelihoods and homes for local residents, but often in marginal economies with associated social, economic and demographic problems. Owing to their natural beauty, uplands often provide opportunities for recreational and educational activities for visitors, contributing major direct or indirect income streams for local communities and regions. An example of the impact of reduced tourism on rural economies has most dramatically been demonstrated by the effects of access closures during the foot-and-mouth disease outbreak in Britain in 2001 (see Curry, this volume).