New Publication | Mapping mountain areas: learning from Global, European, and Norwegian perspectives
what is a mountainWhat is a mountain? A new paper published in the Journal of Mountain Science aims to provide answers to this surprisingly complex question. We talk to one of the paper’s authors, Professor Martin Price, about the challenges of mapping mountains.

Published in the Journal of Mountain Science in May, 'Mapping mountain areas: learning from Global, European, and Norwegian perspectives' explores the various delineations of mountains that have been prepared at global, regional (Europe), and national scales. It examines the reasons and processes that have led to these delineations and how they have been used, before presenting a detailed case study for Norway.

“As a Professor of Mountain Studies, I am often asked what is a mountain?” says paper author Professor Martin Price, Director of the Centre for Mountain Studies at the University of the Highlands and Islands, UK. “This question has been the topic of many debates – and this paper aims to provide some answers. These derive particularly from the availability of geographic information systems and digital elevation/terrain models as tools for analysis over the last two decades.”

This is, Price says, where difficulties arise. “These analyses cannot be entirely ‘objective’; decisions have to be made regarding criteria and thresholds. And, while we can undertake analyses at global and even continental scales, resulting in statistics and maps, the question requires more nuanced answers at national scales, especially if these answers are to be used for policy-making – which usually means the allocation of money. So I am very glad that we have been able to include Tor Arnesen’s case study of What are mountains in Norway?” 

Among the paper’s conclusions is the idea that attempts to map mountain areas are essentially inextricably linked to the objectives of those undertaking or commissioning the work – be it driven by science, politics, or policy. As a result, a unitary definition of mountains is unlikely to be reached. “I hope that this paper will be seen as a useful synthesis of the current status of debates and analyses,” says Price. “And that it will provide a basis for further studies of mountain areas in other countries or regions; or of wider concepts of mountain areas as functional or political units.”


Price, M., Arnesen, T., Gløersen, E., & Metzger, M.J. (2018). ‘Mapping mountain areas: learning from Global, European and Norwegian perspectives.’ Journal of Mountain Science. 10.1007/s11629-018-4916-3.