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Microplastics have been discovered in a remote area of the French Pyrenees mountains. The particles travelled through the atmosphere and were blown into the once pristine region by the wind, according to a new study published in Nature Geoscience.

This is just the latest example of the 'hidden risks' posed by plastics that humans cannot see with the naked eye. For now, governments and activists are focused on avoiding plastic litter in the environment, driven mainly by concern for wildlife and worries over unsightly drinks bottles or abandoned fishing nets on beaches. Plastic bag usage has been cut in many parts of the world, and various projects are exploring how to gather up the floating plastic waste in oceans. But little has yet been done to deal with polluting plastic particles that are usually invisible.

A study published in the journal Water Policy stresses that rapid urbanisation in the region, driven mainly by tourism, is threatening water security in the area – which will only be exacerbated by climate change. The researchers argue that unless a long-term and mountain-specific strategy is devised, millions living in the region would face a severe water crisis.

Millions of people living in the Himalayan region of India, Pakistan, Bangladesh and Nepal may face a grim water future if the rapid and unplanned urbanisation taking place in the ecologically fragile mountains is not quickly addressed, said a study which recommended long-term mountain-specific urban planning to tackle the threat.

An Ecole polytechnique fédérale de Lausanne (EPFL) study has showed that until now, scientists have been substantially underestimating how quickly gases are exchanged between mountain streams and the atmosphere. Based on research in the Swiss cantons of Vaud and Valais, an EPFL laboratory has shed new light on the role of mountain streams in emitting greenhouse gases.

An EPFL study has prompted scientists to rethink a standard approach used to calculate the velocity of gas exchange between mountain streams and the atmosphere. Research conducted in streams in Vaud and Valais indicate that equations used to predict gas exchange based on data from lowland streams undershoots the actual gas exchange velocity in mountain streams on average by a factor of 100.

The Hindu Kush Himalaya Assessment finds that even if carbon emissions are dramatically cut and global warming is limited to 1.5 degrees, over a third of glaciers in the Hindu Kush Himalaya region will have vanished by 2100. If emissions are not cut, this loss could increase to two-thirds – with serious consequences for the billions who rely on their water.

A comprehensive new study of the Hindu Kush Himalaya (HKH) region finds that even meeting the Paris Agreement goal of limiting global warming to 1.5 degrees by the end of the century would lead to a 2.1 degree spike in temperatures in the Himalaya – resulting in the melting of one-third of the region’s glaciers. These glaciers are a critical water source to some 250 million mountain dwellers, and 1.65 billion others living in the river valleys below.

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A new article published in Nature Geoscience reports on the massive collapse of two adjacent glaciers in western Tibet in July and September 2016, leading to an unprecedented pair of giant low-angle ice avalanches.

Published in Nature Geoscience (online on 22 January 2018), the article ‘Massive collapse of two glaciers in western Tibet in 2016 after surge-like instability’ elaborates that the twin collapses were caused by climate- and weather-driven external forcing, acting on specific polythermal and soft-bed glacier properties. 

mountain lakeForumAlpinum has issued a call for contributions to its 2018 edition exploring the topic 'Alpine Water - Common Good or Source of Conflicts?' 

Changing environmental and climatic conditions and growing demand for water will likely lead to conflicts in water use and water management in the Alps. Examining this issue, ForumAlpinum 2018 will take place 4-6 June in Breitenwang, Austria, and will identify hot spots of water use and management in the Alps, analyze conflicts, assess their relevance in a regional, national or international context, and discuss possible solutions. 

Mountain Flag JapanIn November, two MRI Science Leadership Council (SLC) members headed to Japan to attend key events on mountain science and disaster risk. 

Representing the MRI at the International Symposium on Mountain Sciences 2017 in Tsukuba, Japan, Prof. Dr. Jörg Balsiger gave a talk on the MRI's work and the way in which it is adapting to trends in mountain research and international mountain policy. In Tokyo, meanwhile, Prof. Dr. Irasema Alcántara-Ayala participated as co-chair at the 18th Integrated Research on Disaster Risk Scientific Committee Meeting. 
 

European CommissionThe European Commission is investing in new solutions to societal challenges and breakthrough innovation.

Last October, the European Commission announced that it will invest €30 billion of EU research and innovation funding in the Horizon 2020 programme during 2018-2020, including €2.7 billion to kick-start a European Innovation Council. Over the next three years, the Commission hopes to increase the impact of its research funding by focusing on critical topics such as migration, security, climate, clean energy, and digital economy, supporting the Commission's political priorities - all of which are topics relevant in the mountains context.

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