African Mountain Research Times - December 2017

AfroMont Mountain Research and News Digest, December 2017

201711 afromont

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.

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Photo credit: Mountain formation in the Angolan Plateau (internet source)


Editorial The psycho-social impacts of climate change-related disasters – a growing research area?

This Pews Charitable Trusts article has nothing to do with mountains, but everything to do with how people cope with natural disasters – and there are definitely going to be more of these, if current global trends are anything to go by. Much research has been done in both the western world and the developing world on how people cope with shocks and traumas, wars and natural disasters. Coping mechanisms differ depending on whether one is based within the western biomedical framework and receive ‘counseling’, or live within traditional frameworks of medical and mental health. There are papers that report on how deeply rural societies in the developing world may follow both sacred and secular procedures and rituals to try and deal with trauma, and how these are not always helpful. In many cases of extreme trauma, there is often entirely no help and people are ‘just forced to get on with life’. From common knowledge, we know that many people never get over their bad experiences, although as they say, ‘time heals all things’.

In many societies, victims also have to deal with belief systems that put additional blame on ‘victims’, or may live within societies that may not fully understand the links between anxiety, depression and recovery, and where traditional health practices are based on superstition and rituals, many of which are useful, but others which are not. Many people in shattered countries experience ongoing and prolonged fear and danger for themselves and this gets in the way of any recovery, in other words, there is no ‘post-trauma’ phase and instead there is a continuation of trauma and fear.

The Pews Charitable Trusts article reminds us that ‘even’ people living in affluent countries do not all cope following trauma linked to natural disasters and some never manage to ‘just get on with their lives’.

The Hurricane Katrina impact on New Orleans in 2005 showed very clearly that even within affluent countries, the poor experience a disaster worse than the affluent, and that, while disaster may be a great equalizer within societies, the way nations respond to disasters can be very biased. Similarly, during the 2017 season of Gulf of Mexico hurricanes, the poorer islands were worst hit than mainland USA.

Although disaster risk reduction and disaster management is a very big area of research now, we need to think about ‘human psychological recovery’ on a very big scale as part of adaptation strategies for a large range of very different societies get to grips with climate change. Is anyone researching this in Africa?

Photos sourced from:



Editor’s Choice - important publications


Climate change responses among the Maasai Community in Kenya. Leal Filho, W.; Nzengya, D.; Muasya, G.; Wanzuu, J. et al. (2017). Climatic Change 145 (2017), 71-83.

This paper has just been published at Climatic Change. It documents some of the climate change responses by the Maasai in Kenya.  The whole article can be viewed at:


Drone technology for whale health. Ash, C. (2017). Science 358 (2017), 494-495, DOI: 10.1126/science.358.6362.494-c 

It is hard to obtain biological samples from whales. However, whales do shed lots of material as oily slicks behind them and in their massive exhalations, or blows, at the surface. Exhalations contain tissue debris and respiratory microorganisms. Apprill et al. used a small drone furnished with a Petri dish and a 96-well plate to capture exhaled material from 28 humpback whales off Vancouver Island, Canada, and Cape Cod, USA. 16S ribosomal RNA sequencing of bacteria and archaea revealed that animals from the two populations have diverse, distinctive, and yet surprisingly consistent core microbiomes in common with each other and with small, toothed cetaceans: bottlenose dolphins. Fortunately, in this study, no known cetacean respiratory pathogens were detected. These data offer a glimpse into what a healthy microbiota state might look like for a baleen whale.

The question is, how could researchers use drones for the novel study of mountain ecosystems? (ed)