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20th Swiss Global Change Day

The annual Swiss Global Change Day, organized by ProClim, brings together Swiss and international scientists and practitioners to present and discuss highlights of climate and global change research from different fields. This year’s programme was full of familiar faces from the MRI, with MRI Chair Rolf Weingartner chairing the first session and MRI Co-PI Adrienne Grêt-Regamey giving a keynote speech.   The Swiss Global Change Day is known for its excellent set of keynote speakers, and this year’s 20 th anniversary programme was no exception. The first on the stage was Dirk Messner from the  United Nations University . Messner’s talk, ‘On the (im)possibility of the transformation to sustainability,’ was a remarkably positive and encouraging start to the day, highlighting the long way we’ve come from Rio 1992 to COP24 and the amount of knowledge and technical solutions available today. Messner pointed that this is the moment for joint action to...
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Opportunities in Mountain Environments Explored at Mountains 2018

The city of Nova Friburgo, in the mountainous region of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, hosted Mountains 2018 , 10-14 December, with debates on topics ranging from agricultural production to ecological tourism and climate change, culminating in the creation of the Latin American and Caribbean Network for Research in Mountain Environments. “Like Lumont Lusofonia Mountain Research Network, the goal is to strengthen research in the area and set goals to improve people's lives, with sustainability,” says Embrapa researcher Adriana Aquino, chair of the Mountains 2018 organizing commission. According to her, the network will be an instrument to encourage the creation of government programs and promote joint research between institutions throughout Latin America and the Caribbean. Discussions taking place at Mountains 2018. Image credit: Fernando Gregio. A highlight of Mountains 2018 was the presentation of the Letter of Nova Friburgo , a participant-led initiative to alert society and government of the importance of...
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Ice Volume Calculated Anew

Written by Peter Rüegg. Source: ETH Zürich. Researchers have provided a new estimate for the glacier ice volume all around the world, excluding the Greenland and Antarctic ice sheets. Their conclusion: previous calculations overestimated the volume of the glaciers in High Mountain Asia. Climate change is causing glaciers to shrink around the world. Reduced meltwaters from these glaciers also have downstream effects, particularly on freshwater availability. A lack of meltwater can greatly restrict the water supply to many rivers, especially in arid regions such as the Andes or central Asia, that depend on this water source for agriculture. Up-to-date information on the worldwide ice volume is needed to assess how glaciers – and the freshwater reserves they supply – will develop, and how sea levels are set to change. Ice thickness calculated for 215,000 glaciers Led by ETH Zurich and the Swiss Federal Institute for Forest, Snow and Landscape Research WSL, an...
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Strong coupling between terrestrial and aquatic food webs found in Japanese mountain lakes

Lakes and ponds are important components of mountain ecosystems. Mountain lakes are mainly formed by volcanic craters, landslides and glaciers, which create beautiful alpine and subalpine landscapes and thus attract many tourists and hikers (cover photo). Such aquatic habitats also harbor rich and unique biodiversity including plants, animals, fungi and microbes. In addition to the ecological importance, the geomorphological, hydrological and biogeochemical significance of mountain lakes are also known, as they integrate the upstream watershed processes and influences the natural and human ecosystems located downstream in their embedded catchments. Therefore, lakes are now considered to provide high ecosystem service values in  mountainous landscapes. Field sampling in a subalpine mountain lake (Daigaku-numa Pond) located in the Daisetsu-Kogen swamp, Hokkaido, Japan. Lake water and plankton samples were collected from an inflatable boat using samplers. Ecologists have long recognized the strong coupling between terrestrial and aquatic food webs. For example, in small headwater streams...
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Thriving in a changing climate for mountains: Research prospects inspired by outcomes of the Sustainable Summits Conference 2018

As we near the winter solstice in the northern hemisphere, and the mountains are blanketed with snow and temperatures drop, the extreme summer conditions experienced in the Alps earlier in the year seem like a very distant memory. Last summer, Switzerland registered its third warmest summer immediately after the fourth warmest spring season since instrumental records began in the year 1864, according to a report by Meteoswiss. The impacts observed and felt in the region were considerable, including rapidly changing conditions in the mountains triggering hazardous conditions and risks to mountain visitors and dwellers. So, rather than letting it slip into a distant memory, this is precisely the time to maintain the momentum and continue to reflect on those events and resulting losses, and steer attention to prospects for research and knowledge that address the new living conditions across all seasons in a rapidly changing climate in mountains – focusing on...
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Thinking Mountains Interdisciplinary Summit Brings Together Diverse People and Programs around Shared Concerns for Mountains

In the midst of an early October snowstorm, academics, practitioners, writers and educators made their way to the famous northern town of Banff, nestled in the stunning Canadian Rocky Mountains. Some people made it to Banff before the snows began. Others, like me, got stuck on the highway for an hour or so as trucks and cars struggled to climb the slippery roads and got stuck, blocking the flow of traffic. And some who arrived later that evening were apparently stuck on the slippery road for hours and hours late into the night.  But eventually, we all made it to the iconic and woodsy Banff Centre for Arts & Creativity, home of the Banff Mountain Film & Book Festival, and – from 2-5 October – home of the . was sponsored by the Canadian Mountain Network, which is based out of the University of Alberta, with an organizing team comprised of...
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Vulnerable Peaks and People

More than half of the world’s population depends on mountains to provide drinking water. This water comes from glaciers in the Himalayas, Andes and other mountain ranges which a recent report by the  Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change  (IPCC) identified as among parts of the world most vulnerable to climate change. Each year, the United Nations marks the 11th of December as International Mountain Day, honouring the rich and diverse ecosystems and people that inhabit these magnificent landscapes, and highlighting the challenges they face. This year GRID-Arendal, UN Environment and a number of partners, observed the day with the launch of two special reports at the climate change negotiations underway in Katowice, Poland – the  Outlook on Climate Change Adaptation in the Hindu Kush Himalaya   and the  Mountain Adaptation Outlook Series Synthesis Report .  Nepalese woman washes at a communal water tap. Photo: UN Women/Narendra Shrestha. These reports wrap up a...
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Hiking for science: hydrological research at the Páramo of Chirripó, Costa Rica

[caption id="attachment_3902" align="alignright" width="300"] Weather stations installed at the Base Crestones shelter Written by  Germain Esquivel-Hernández , Associate Professor at the School of Chemistry of the National University in Costa Rica. Restricted to the latitudinal zone between the parallels of 11°N and 8°S, the Páramo is a key mountainous tropical ecosystem in South America because of the environmental services it provides, including high water production and carbon storage capacity. However, the so-called 'Isthmian Páramo' situated in Costa Rica and Panama remains understudied due to its remote location, compared to some of the better understood Páramo areas in South America. Here, I share how I embarked on a scientific journey to reveal the water secrets of the most extensive Páramo region in Central America: Chirripó. Chirripó is a national park with an extension of about 100 km 2 , situated in the Talamanca Range (southern Costa Rica), where approximately 30 lakes of glacial...
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Mountain Glaciers: Vanishing Sources of Water & Life

[gallery size="large" link="file" columns="5" ids="3796,3802,3797,3798,3799,3800,3801,3803,3804,3805"] [caption id="attachment_3815" align="alignright" width="305"] Click to download the flyer. Mountain glaciers are among the most visible and emblematic indicators of climate change. Worldwide, glaciers are losing mass at unprecedented rates – a process that has accelerated in recent decades, with record losses in the 21 st century. As an effect of widespread glacier shrinkage, the high mountains of the world are currently experiencing a historically unparalleled, large-scale environmental transformation, with profound and far-reaching impacts for landscapes, ecosystems, and people. Glaciers provide important ecosystem services. In the tropical Andes, for instance, glacier meltwater offers critical support to sensitive ecosystems such as high-mountain wetlands. Ongoing glacier retreat therefore gives rise to ecosystem changes, and the eventual disappearance of glaciers in future will ultimately disrupt these ecosystems and their service functions. Glacier retreat also impacts water provision for people and economies downstream. Central Asia, several regions in South Asia,...
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The unique experience of a female science-art high-alpine expedition

[caption id="attachment_3750" align="alignright" width="350"] Expedition participants sit looking towards the Matterhorn near Zermatt in Switzerland. Image: Lena Hellmann/Girls on Ice Switzerland. Written by Lena Hellmann , Geographer and Leader of Girls on Ice Switzerland.  In Switzerland, only 25 out of approximately 1,500 mountain guides are female, in Germany this number is around 10 out of approximately 500. Scientific positions, particularly in the natural sciences, are dominated by men with with only 23 percent of all university professors in Switzerland  (1) and in Germany  (2)  being women. Even though these numbers have been increasing over recent decades, Girls on Ice Switzerland aims to further change these gender biases. As part of the international organisation Inspiring Girls Expeditions , the mission of Girls on Ice Switzerland is to bring out teenage girls' natural curiosity, to inspire their interest in science, and to connect arts and sciences. The exclusively female-guided mountain expedition encourages girls...
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