Introduction

An efficient provision of topical, extensive and reliable geo-information is a condition for concrete environmental protection and ecological planning. This is not solely valid in the 'western world', although primary information is comparatively transparent and often easier accessible there.

The present German-Russian co-operative research project aims at a geoscientific-methodological contribution to help protecting the unique natural environment and the cultural variety of the Russain Altai Mountains, which approximately coincide with the administrative borders of the Altai Republic within the Russian Federation. Success or failure of ecological measures depend on integral planning, which includes the socio-cultural environment with an emphasis on the indigenous population. The advantage of geo-information systems for structuring, homogenisation, integration, analysis and presentation of the necessary informative foundations is undisputed.

The Russian Central-Altai, the closer sphere of our work is an economically underdeveloped and peripheral area within the Russian Federation, which can be more likely counted among the losers of the political and economical transformation of Russia. Markets for animal products and timber got lost, the weakly developed light industry did not resist the newly emerging competition. The economical and cultural exchange of the border region with the neighbouring countries Mongolia, Kasakhstan and China is feeble. Recent development projects, for example a Trans-Altai road link over the Ukok-Plateau, have to be regarded as critical, especially when appearing as singlular schemes, because they could impair the ecology and eventually disturb the labile economical balance of the neighbouring areas. The welcome declaration of spatious nature reserves (all together more than a fourth of the Altai Republic's territory) is in danger to be a label only, as long as management and informational foundations are retarded. Especially conservation management needs the context of integrative development planning, with the principal goal being the improvement of the social situation. One of the perspectives is, for example, a socially and environmentally friendly tourism. At present, tourism is limited in terms of locations and number of visitors, hardly ever supported by an adeqaute infrastructure, or even monitored and directed. Consequently, it contributes little to the regional welfare. The promotion of ecotourism can and should rely on the same geo-information sources as conservation activity.

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from: [PRECHTEL, N. & M. BUCHROITHNER (2001)]