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Microplastics have even been blown into a remote corner of the Pyrenees

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. There is however growing concern about these micro and nanoplastics, classified as particles smaller than 5mm....
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GEO-GNOME Workshop 2019

In a blog post originally written for the P3 project, Marilen Haver – a PhD Student and early career scientist at P³ – describes her experience of attending the recent MRI-hosted GEO-GNOME workshop on 'Essential Climate Variables for Observations in Mountains'.

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Defending the Environment Now More Lethal Than Soldiering in Some War Zones – And Indigenous Peoples Are Suffering Most

Despite centuries of persecution, indigenous groups still manage or have tenure rights over at least a quarter of the world’s land surface. Often inhabiting these lands as far back as memory extends, they share a deep and unique connection to their environment.

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University of Lausanne launches centre to promote interdisciplinary research on mountains

The Interdisciplinary Centre for Mountain Research (ICMR) was launched by the University of Lausanne (UNIL) as a four-year pilot project to contribute to the sustainable development of mountain regions. It does so by enhancing the synergies between 70 researchers from five UNIL faculties and nine research and dissemination institutions mostly from the Alpine region. Among these associated entities is the Mountain Research Initiative, supporting international outreach and connection. Inaugurated on 2 November 2018, the ICMR aims at deepening our knowledge about the challenges faced by mountain regions by using a wide range of methods from the social sciences, natural sciences, and humanities. Research will concentrate on a set of themes identified through discussions with UNIL experts on mountains during the centre’s design phase: time and sustainability, change and transitions, natural hazards and risks, mountain society, natural resources, ecosystem services, innovation, food labels, and tourism and health. But the integration of diverse...
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Linkages Between Tourism and Community-Driven Economic Activities: Shaping Sustainability in Mountain Regions

An interdisciplinary research project to bolster sustainable and inclusive tourism development in mountainous Georgia. Mountain and Rural Development Initiatives – Caucasus Region (MRD-Cau), based at Tbilisi State University, is a collaborative effort between several local and international scholars with the shared vision of pursuing solutions to pressing challenges in rural and mountainous Caucasus. This platform initiates research projects focused on tackling issues related to the transformation of socioeconomic and spatial conditions, mostly centered around tourism development, management of protected areas, territorial patterns of local economic activities, etc. Importantly, most of the projects are based on interdisciplinary approaches that aim to bolster sustainable and inclusive development. One such project – ‘Linkages between Tourism and Community-driven Economic Activities: Shaping Sustainability in Mountain Regions’ – is outlined below. Motivation The project presented in this article was inspired by the research results of the international interdisciplinary project ‘AMIES II - Scenario Development for Sustainable Land...
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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 20th 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 face the challenges...
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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 actions and...
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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 glaciersLed by ETH Zurich and the Swiss Federal Institute for Forest, Snow and Landscape Research WSL, an international team...
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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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