GEO Mountains - officially, the Group on Earth Observations (GEO) Global Network for Observations and Information in Mountain Environments - is a GEO Work Programme Initiative that seeks to to identify, collate, and make accessible transboundary and inter- and transdisciplinary data and information pertaining to environmental, ecological, and societal systems and their changes in mountainous regions globally.

In so doing, it hopes to increase the ease with which the scientific research community, local, national, and regional decision makers, and other interested parties can access and use such data and information.

GEO Mountains is co-led by the MRI and the National Research Council of Italy. Part of the programme specifically seeks to build on the legacy of previous community in situ observation coordination efforts, such as those of The Global Network of Mountain Observatories (GNOMO).                                                                                                                                               

GEO Mountains Logo Tagline

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Mountains are globally distributed environments that produce significant societal benefits. However, the ability of mountain regions to provide goods and services to both highland and lowland populations is seriously threatened by climatic and environmental changes, large-scale political and socio-economic transformations, unsustainable management of natural resources, and major gaps in the understanding of mountain systems. Decisions on policy and investment, from the level of local governments to international agencies, must be based on information and knowledge that reflects both the generalities and specificities of mountain regions. In addition, decision-makers must confront the paucity of observations in high-elevation regions.

GEO Mountains (formerly known as GEO-GNOME) was launched in 2016 with the aim to bring together research institutions and mountain observation networks to collate and make available transboundary and inter- and transdisciplinary environmental and socio-ecological data and information (both in situ and remotely sensed) on global change in mountains. In so doing, it is hoped that mountains as a context will assume and retain a prominent position in all major global policy agendas, including the 2030 UN Agenda and its Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), reporting on climate change through the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) and the United Nations Convention on Climate Change (UNCCC), and the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction (DRR). See here for an overview of recent and ongoing activities. 


News and forthcoming GEO Mountains events

GEO Mountains Workshop Inter- and transdisciplinary mountain data in the Carpathians: Identifying user requirements and access preferences at Forum Carpaticum 2021, 21-25 June 2021


A round-up of updates was shared with the community in December 2020; please refer to this news article to learn more about developments and progress in GEO Mountains.

Expressions of interest to contribute to specific task groups is still available - if you are willing and able to contribute to GEO Mountains, please complete this form.

A series of webinars, workshops, regional consultations, and the 2021 General Meeting will take place throughout 2021. Stay tuned for more information via the MRI Global Newsletter and also by registering as a GEO Mountains contributor. Contact us for more information


Activities for 2020-2022

The overarching objective of the Initiative are as follows:


  1. To identify the needs of diverse users of data and information pertaining to global mountain environments and, as far as possible, satisfy these needs by making relevant data freely discoverable, accessible, and usable
  2. Improve monitoring and understanding of mountain processes, and;
  3. Build, connect, and communicate with the community to develop collective reporting capacity that responds to policy needs

To achieve these objectives, numerous tasks and activities are underway or planned. These include holding surveys to ascertain users' data needs, workshops to establish observation priorities and approaches, and webinars to keep all interested participants informed. In addition, training material will be developed to help capacity building. It is intended that data will be made available via the GEOSS Portal. The full Implementation Plan can be accessed here.

In 2020, Dr. James Thornton was appointed GEO Mountains Scientific Officer to focus on the implementation and coordination of tasks. 

Summary of forthcoming activities / recent outputs:

  1. Three alternative mountain delineations currently shown in Global Mountain Explorer will be made accessible via the GEO GEOSS portal (specifically the GEO Mountains GEOSS Community Portal, which is currently in Beta);
  2. Relevant existing datasets and other resources will be shared (again via the GEO Mountains GEOSS Community Portal);
  3. A list of Essential Climate Variables (ECVs), which should form priorities for monitoring in order to better track and understand ongoing change in mountainous environments, has been proposed and an associated manuscript is under revision with the journal One Earth;
  4. The identification and publication of lists of other (e.g. biodiversity, social, socio-ecological) Essential Variables for monitoring in mountains is ongoing;
  5. Analyses will be undertaken seeking to identify fundamental knowledge gaps and user data needs, as well as the data that would be needed to fill them;
  6. A series of webinars and workshops will be held to communicate results and engage with the community. 

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Past GEO Mountains (GEO-GNOME) Events


Past Achievements

The initial aims and objectives of the Initiative were outlined in the GEO-GNOME 2017-2019 Work Plan, which was revised at a workshop in May 2018. A reorganisation and reformulation of objectives and tasks was agreed upon, and the outcomes of the workshop were presented in a peer-reviewed publication in Mountain Research and Development (See Adler et al. 2018).

Outputs and Products:

  • EBV & ESV Workshop report: Kulonen, A., Adler, C., Palazzi, E. (2020). GEO-GNOME Workshop “Identifying Essential Biodiversity Variables (EBVs) and Essential Societal Variables (ESVs) in Mountain Environments”. Global Network for Observations and Information in Mountain Environments. Bern: Mountain Research Initiative (MRI).
  • ECV Workshop report: Kulonen, A., Adler, C., Palazzi, E. (2019). GEO-GNOME Workshop “Essential Climate Variables for Observations in Mountains”. Global Network for Observations and Information in Mountain Environments. Bern: Mountain Research Initiative (MRI).
  • Comparison of areas and locations of mountains as portrayed via existing layers: Sayre, R., Frye, C., Karagulle, D., Krauer, J., Breyer, S., Aniello, P., Wright, D. J., Payne, D., Adler, C., Warner, H., Van Sistine, D. Paco & Cress, J. (2018). A New High-Resolution Map of World Mountains and an Online Tool for Visualizing and Comparing Characterizations of Global Mountain Distributions. Mountain Research and Development, 38 (3), 240- 249. DOI: 10.1659/mrd-journal-d-17-00107.1
  • A publication from the scoping workshop in 2018. Adler, C., Palazzi, E., Kulonen, A., Balsiger, J., Colangeli, G., Cripe, D., Forsythe, N., Goss-Durant, G., Guigoz, Y., Krauer, J., Payne, D., Pepin, N., Peralvo, M., Romero, J., Sayre, R., Shahgedanova, M., Weingartner, R. & Zebisch, M. (2018). Monitoring Mountains in a Changing World: New Horizons for the Global Network for Observations and Information on Mountain Environments (GEO-GNOME). Mountain Research and Development, 38 (3), 265-269. DOI: 10.1659/mrdjournal-d-8-00065.1
  • Global Mountain Explorer: a data viewer portal which allows for visualization and query of different mountain definitions (K1, K2 and K3)


Data Policy

GEO Mountains adheres to and advocates a strong Open Data policy in accordance with the positions of GEO and the World Data System. We recognise, however, that certain types of sensitive data are subject to restrictions, and respect these.   



Being co-led by the Mountain Research Initiative (MRI), which has links to Future Earth, GEO Mountains subscribes to the notion of co-production of knowledge and user engagement. Under these principles, the use of new scientific knowledge in policy or decision-making is enhanced to the extent that policy and decision makers are actively engaged in the creation of that new knowledge. To achieve co-production within mountain regions, GEO Mountains engages policy actors in a formal and on-going consultation process that will provide guidance regarding not only the nature of data they need but also their preferred means for accessing it and other technical aspects.



Specific contributions to date include:

  1. Over the period of the GEO Work Programme 2017-2019, the MRI invested considerable resources into the Initiative. This investment facilitated the planning and hosting of a GEO-GNOME scoping workshop in May 2018, as well as the coordination and participation in subsequent publications to report on the outcomes and already achieved objectives
  2. Over 2019-2023, the Swiss Development and Cooperation Agency provides considerable support to GEO Mountains through its Adaptation at Altitude collaborative programme
  3. The USGS Land Change Science Program provided support for delineating mountain regions (Objective 1 in 2017-2018), and continues to engage in the development and design of future activities
  4. The EU H2020-funded project ECOPOTENTIAL, coordinated by CNR-DTA (National Research Council - Department of Earth System Science and Environmental Technologies), explored the use of Earth observations for the management of ecosystems, with mountain ecosystems as a specific sub-category. It was conceived as an EU contribution to GEO and provided in-kind assistance to Objectives 2 and 3 in 2017-2019
  5. The NextData project, which was lead by CNR-DTA and ended in December 2018, has also contributed to objectives 2 and 3 in 2017-2019 through the work of its researchers who are also involved in GEO-GNOME (in-kind contribution).
  6. Several tasks completed in 2017-2019 were funded largely by the participants themselves (in-kind contributions), as well as through small contributions and grants by MRI, Future Earth, and the European Space Agency


Leadership and coordination

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Elisa Palazzi (CNR, Italy)

Coordination (Scientific Project Officer, GEO Mountains):
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Members: Austria, Belgium, Brazil, Canada, China, Colombia, Denmark, EC, Ethiopia, France, Italy (ISAC-CNR), Japan, Kazakhstan, Mexico, New Zealand, Pakistan, Russian Federation, Slovakia, South Africa, Switzerland, Uganda, UK, USA (USGS)
Participating Organizations: ILTER, ICIMOD, UNEP, UNOOSA, WMO


Links with other GEO Initiatives

We seek to develop and grow links with GEO BON, AmeriGEO, GEO Human Planet, GEO Eco, GEO4SDGs, EO4EA, GEO EVs (GEO Community Activity on Essential Variables), and Himalayan GEOSS.



GEO Mountains is supported by the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC)

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