MRI Founding Report
(joint report: IGBP Report No. 49 / GTOS Report No. 28 / IHDP Report No. 13, 2001)

To meet these objectives, the research under the Mountain Initiative will be structured around four Activities, each of which is divided into a small number of specific Tasks:


MRI Activity 1

Long-term monitoring and analysis of indicators of environmental change in mountain regions


This Activity will be accomplished through the coordination of ongoing research and, where required, the initiation of new projects in mountain regions around the world. A set of four mountain-specific indicator groups of environmental change is considered:

  • Cryospheric indicators related to snow conditions, glaciers, permafrost and solifluction processes (Task 1.1);
  • Terrestrial ecosystems, particularly mountain plant communities and soils (Task 1.2);
  • Freshwater ecosystems, in particular high mountain streams and lakes (Task 1.3);
  • Watershed hydrology, i.e. water balance components of high mountain waterhsheds/headwater basins (Task 1.4).


Contemporary monitoring will be arranged within the context of reconstructions of longer-term past trends and variability, provided through close collaboration with relevant aspects of the IGBP core project PAGES.


MRI Activity 2

Integrated model-based studies of environmental change in different mountain regions


To achieve the overall goals of the Initiative, it is necessary to develop a framework that permits to analyse and predict hydrological and ecological characteristics and their linkages with land use and climate at various spatial and temporal scales. Accordingly, this Activity is organized in the following four research themes:

  • Development of coupled ecological, hydrological and land use models for the simulation of land cover and land surface processes in complex mountain landscapes and river basins under current and changing atmospheric and socio-economic conditions (Task 2.1);
  • Development of regional scale atmospheric models for mountain regions capable of providing high resolution areal distribution patterns of atmospheric driving forces, in particular precipitation, for the study of land surface processes (Task 2.2);
  • Integrated analysis of environmental change in mountain regions by means of fully coupled land surface-atmosphere models, where feasible and appropriate, or by qualitative assessments (Task 2.3);
  • Regional scale mountain land surface experiment to support the development, application and validation of the above models (Task 2.4).



MRI Activity 3

Process studies along altitudinal gradients and in associated headwater basins


Ecological and hydrological field studies and experiments, including manipulative ones, along altitudinal gradients and at sensitive sites can provide invaluable data on potential responses of mountain ecosystems to anthropogenically induced environmental change as well as increasing understanding of the associated biotic feed-backs. They are also required to support modelling (Activity 2) and for the identification of indicators of global change. Research themes to be addressed within this Activity include:

  • Development of indicators of mountain ecosystem response to environ-mental forcing factors, based on an improved process understanding of these unique systems insofar as they are sensitive to global change forcings and for a process-related interpretation of historical and paleorecords (Task 3.1);
  • Assessment of runoff generation and flowpath dynamics on steep hillslopes and in headwater catchments, including the examination of the role of biogeochemical ‘hot spots’, for instance for N transformation in mountain areas (Task 3.2);
  • The relationship between diversity and ecosystem function, taking advantage of the strong changes of diversity along altitudinal gradients and an assessment of the associated changes in ecosystem functions (Task 3.3)

Paleoarchives will be used to explore sys-tem responses to both natural variability and anthropogenic impacts.


MRI Activity 4
Sustainable land use and natural resources management

The overall objective of this Initiative is to evaluate and enhance sustainable land, water, and resource management strategies for mountain regions. Three priority areas are suggested for assessment:

  • Changes in forest resources, with potential implications for agriculture, rates of erosion and magnitude of floods, and biodiversity (Task 4.1);
  • Intensification and/or extensification of agriculture (including grazing), with potential implications for food security, rates of erosion and magnitude of floods, and biodiversity (Task 4.2);
  • Changes in water resources due to factors such as changing agricultural practices, increasing temporary or permanent population, and/or increasing energy generation, with implications for down-stream water supply, energy availability, flooding, and sediment transfer (Task 4.3).

Work on these linked themes will include paleoresearch, local knowledge and scientific investigation, e.g. with respect to evaluating optimal combinations of traditional and innovative land use and re-source management systems.

This text is taken from the MRI founding report (joint report: IGBP Report No. 49 / GTOS Report No. 28 / IHDP Report No. 13, 2001), which can be downloaded here: