The MRI grows! We are pleased to announce that the MRI office is now joined by two new staff members, Ms Grace Goss-Durant and Mr Christoph Bacher. Grace has been appointed as the new MRI Communications Manager, a professional with strong editorial skills and a proven track record in project management, planning, and production of communications materials for a variety of publications and online channels. With degrees in environmental social sciences, climate change & sustainable development and a postgraduate degree in creative writing, Grace will oversee MRI’s new communications strategy and implementation of key communication products to showcase the MRI’s research community contributions to science in the mountains.
Christoph Bracher joins the MRI as Research Assistant. He holds a masters degree in environmental history and is currently completing a second masters degree in geography. At the MRI, he is contributing to research tasks related to MRI’s commitments under the Sustainable Mountain Development for Global Change program, engaging with key MRI regional partners in assessing the state of the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and their application and relevance for mountain regions.
We look forward to working with both Grace and Christoph and jointly work towards this new phase at MRI – Welcome!
Ahead on the MRI agenda for mountain-related events in 2017
October: 1. First authors meeting for the IPCC Special Report on Oceans and Cryospehere, Nadi, Fiji. 2. International Climbing and Mountaineering Federation’s (UIAA) General Assembly, Tehran, Iran.
November: 1. 6th International Symposium for Research in Protected Areas, Salzburg, Austria. 2. 15th Swiss Geoscience Meeting 2017 (SGM 2017), "Moving Boundaries", in Davos, Switzerland.
December: 1. ICIMOD's International Conference on Resilient Hindu Kush Himalaya: Developing Solutions towards a Sustainable Future for Asia. 2. MRI's Science Leadership Council meeting, Rome, Italy. 3. Mountain Partnership’s high-level conference on mountains “Mountains under Pressure”, at the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) in Rome, Italy.
Under the framework of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) Sixth Assessment Report (AR6) and assessment cycle, there are several developments and opportunities for the MRI and its mountain research community to participate and make important contributions on the state of knowledge regarding climate change in mountain regions. Here is a recap:
Alpine treelines are prominent, globally-distributed ecological transition zones subject to functional, structural and positional shifts under as a result of ongoing climate change. Such changes will have important implications for mountain ecosystem services and alpine biodiversity. According to a meta-analysis of the published literature, about half of the world’s treelines has started to shift upslope, while the other half has not (Harsch et al 2009, Ecol. Letters 12: 1040-1049). It is unclear what causes these differences. In order to understand and predict treeline shifts in response to climatic changes, we need to learn to read the signs present in spatial treeline patterns. In a recent MRI Synthesis Workshop, held in Jaca, Spain early September 2017, a group of nine treeline researchers discussed these patterns and how they can be used to infer the underlying processes and expected dynamics.
Win a trip to Rome to see your video shown at the International Mountain Day concert!
To bring attention to the plight of mountains for International Mountain Day (11 December), we are asking you to make a one-minute video on the theme of ‘Mountains under pressure: climate, hunger, migration’ for the #MountainsMatter video contest. Two winners will receive a trip to Rome to attend the International Mountain Day concert on 11 December. The winning videos will be shown at the concert. The deadline for entries is 20 October 2017. More information: www.fao.org/international-mountain-day/video-contest/en/
If you use Facebook, follow the Mountain Research Initiative to get the latest mountain-related news, job announcements, blog posts and, every now and then, some mountain eye-candy to brighten your day!
National Parks Austria (www.nationalparksaustria.at) and Hohe Tauern National Park (www.hohetauern.at) would like to encourage you to participate in the 6th International Symposium for Research in Protected Areas 2017 on 2-3 November 2017 in Salzburg, Austria. For programme details, the registration form and further useful information please visit: www.nationalparksaustria.at/symposium2017
A SCAR/IASC Conference | Davos – Switzerland | 15 – 26 June 2018
The Scientific Committee on Antarctic Research SCAR and the International Arctic Science Committee IASC invite the international polar and high altitude community to their joint meeting POLAR2018, hosted by WSL and SLF in Davos, Switzerland.
AfroMont Mountain Research and News Digest, September 2017
AfroMont, a knowledge sharing platform, was initiated in 2007 by the Mountain Research Initiative (MRI) to focus research attention on the diverse issues and challenges facing the mountainous regions of sub-Saharan Africa. AfroMont is an online media platform, now with ten years of activities, all with a focus on Africa mountain research and Sustainable Mountain Development (SMD) in African countries. We follow advances in African mountain research and issues including news and specialized opinion articles covering all aspects of global change in mountains.
Photo credit: Sue Taylor. Towards Lesotho and the Maloti Mountains, South Africa.
Editorial – Scientists can't be silent
From an article in Science Magazine, written by Senator Christopher Coons in the USA, a concern was expressed that in some countries, notably the USA, the value of science is being downplayed by decision makers and ignored by a populace who have learned to distrust science (as in climate change, evolution and vaccinations). Senator Coons makes a plea for science to be viewed as of key importance, both for technological innovation and new industries, but also in providing evidence to take a stand against some of the more disturbing developments in science denialism, for example, where the impacts of climate are being downplayed. Senator Coons says that across the U.S. federal government, scientists are playing a decreasing role in the policymaking, often being pushed out by a political agenda that is stridently anti-science. Meanwhile, Americans are becoming more distrustful of democratic institutions, the scientific method, and basic facts - three core beliefs on which the research enterprise depends. The United States remains the unquestioned global leader in science and innovation, but sustaining the U.S. commitment to science won't happen without a fight.
African relevance of science
While this issue is beginning to reach a crescendo in the USA, the message has relevance for all other nations. Governments need to invest in scientific explorations and society needs to understand and heed their findings. One area where it is essential for scientific investigations to be carried out, and for the findings taken into policy and decision making is that of water resource management and preparedness for drought. However, despite research and climatological monitoring, Southern Africa was not prepared for the very severe drought of 2015/2016. It is estimated that over 34 million persons thought to have been affected by food insecurity. In Johannesburg, I had to lend some local Malawians cash to send ‘home’ as they told me that ‘people were dying’ in their home villages and they were concerned for their families so far away. There was also no seed for planting when it did start raining again, all seed reserves having been consumed to keep households fed.
Archer et al (2017) note that with modern climatological methods it is possible to predict rainfall (or lack of) patterns up to two months before they happen. Also, El Nino is also predictable and occurs with some regularity. In the light of ongoing research, South African climatologists began warning decision makers early on about the pending super-drought. Archer et al (2017) also state that drought information was in ‘certain areas ignored or not taken sufficiently on board’ – meaning that it was ignored by the authorities that should have taken action.
The cost of the South Africa drought was huge, from massive livestock deaths, to crop failures. Warnings to subsistence farmers to downsize herds before the quality of the livestock had deteriorated were not made timeously particularly in regions where communal land is farmed and emerging black farmers are trying to establish themselves. Also, rural villages were stricken by a lack of water and water tankers were used to supply water to these communities (they should have had government-funded boreholes put in the minute drought was predicted). Civil society responded by collecting 5 l bottles of purified water (and after some months, this was downgraded to 5 l bottles of any water) and taking it around to desperate rural and urban communities. Some concerned individuals even took to putting bowls of water outside their house or gate to allow for birds and small mammals, or even the local dogs, to get a drink. We don’t know what the impact of such a drought is on the biota, and how quickly natural systems recover. One of the long term impacts of this drought on human society will be the increased the flow of rural people to the cities where it is likely that they will live in informal settlements and not find work. I also was privileged to sit in on a talk by the CEO of Bloemfontein Water recently. Bloemfontein Water is an entity that provides bulk water to municipalities within the Free State province of South Africa. The CEO is highly qualified in water resource management and very outspoken. She began her talk by saying ‘There is no water, my friends. There is no water!’ This was an important and courageous statement relating our long term water future – many politicians do not acknowledge that South Africa is an arid country. We so often hear politicians trying to placate their voters, saying that there is no crisis. Well, the science, villagers and farmers are telling us that there is indeed a crisis. As well as being an arid country, we in South Africa should know that climate change is upon us (2016 was the hottest year on record in South Africa and it is safe to say that 2017 will also be awarded this title, and then 2018) and we cannot ignore the predictive value of science.
Are you a mountains researcher based in Europe? MRI needs your views on EU funding programmes
A survey is being conducted by MRI with the Network for European Mountain Research (NEMOR), and in collaboration with Euromontana, to learn about the MRI community’s recent experiences with European research funding schemes. The results will be used to inform strategic planning at MRI, NEMOR and Euromontana, in relation to future advocacy activities for research in mountain regions in the European context, in particular for the upcoming FP9 programme. If you have already responded, thank you! If not, there is still time to participate. This survey will remain open to receive your responses until Friday 6 October 2017 (note extended deadline). Please follow this link to the survey.
For any questions regarding this survey, please feel free to email us at firstname.lastname@example.org. Your responses, time and contribution in this matter are highly appreciated.
1st World Congress on Agritourism - Call for Special Sessions
Eurac Research is promoting an international congress dedicated exclusively to the topic of agritourism. The congress will take place in November 7-9, 2018 in Bolzano/ Bozen (South Tyrol, Italy). The aim of the initiative is to discuss the state-of-the-art and the future perspectives of agrotourism as specific kind of rural tourism characterised by a touristic stay and services on a working-farm and to promote agritourism unambiguously worldwide. The congress will offer the opportunity to get updates, exchange views and experiences and to build a permanent networking platform for researchers, practitioners, policy makers and administrative bodies. For this reason, the sessions will focus on critical and emerging themes strictly related to the activities in the field of agritourism....and of course the mountain environment is key in this emerging dynamism.
Would you like to contribute to the selection of themes with a mountains focus? The Call for Special Sessions is now open!
The Congress organizers invite all interested practitioners, researchers, public and private institutions, as well as international networks and organisations related to agritourism to propose a thematic session in accordance with or in addition to the key themes constituting the congress framework.
A round up of recent events such as the GLACIARES+ winter school in Pisac, Peru, as well as other upcoming events, news, recent publications, jobs and grant opportunities in the Latin American region [in Spanish].