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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 seven-volume series of assessments that looked at...
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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 shelterWritten 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 km2, situated in the Talamanca Range (southern Costa Rica), where approximately 30 lakes of glacial origin are found. Visiting Chirripó is not...
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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 21st 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, and the tropical Andes...
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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 aged 15-17 to trust in their physical...
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New Study Highlights Loss & Damage in Mountain Cryosphere

Written by Andrew Angle. This article was first published on GlacierHub.Few areas of the planet have been more affected by climate change than the mountain cryosphere, where negative impacts like glacier recession far exceed any positives like short-term increases in glacial runoff. These adverse changes make highland environments ideal for examining the policy concept of Loss and Damage (L&D), which deals with the impact of climate change on resources and livelihoods that cannot be offset by adaptation. A recent study in Regional Environmental Change analyzes L&D in the mountain cryosphere by extracting examples from existing literature on the subject and developing a conceptual approach to support future research to address the subject.L&D has become an important issue within the international climate policy realm in recent years. In the mountain cryosphere, the effects of climate change and the resultant L&D are directly evident. However, despite the visibility of these changes, research on L&D has rarely...
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UNESCO Biosphere Reserves: Fertile Ground for Education

[caption id="attachment_3712" align="alignright" width="300"] Field meeting among biosphere reserve participants from Japan, Russia, and Belarus (funded by the Japanese National Commission for UNESCO)Written by Dr. Yoshihiko Iida, Research Associate at the United Nations University Institute for the Advanced Study of Sustainability, Operating Unit Ishikawa/Kanazawa, and Secretariat Advisor of the Mount Hakusan Biosphere Reserve Council.Mountain landscapes contain a wealth of both nature and culture, and have the potential to be used for a broad range of educational activities in fields as wide-ranging as climatology, ecology, history, and the arts. What is more, the results of these educational activities, such as the scientific monitoring of water sources and the study of disaster responses, can also be applied to further sustainable community development.With such an inclusive area for study then, what kind of human resource development program can be put in place by higher education sectors in mountains, beyond research? The UNESCO Biosphere Reserves provide an...
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Observing Glaciers in 'Real Time'

Written by Markus Gross. Source: ETH ZurichHot summers cause glaciers to melt. That not only changes the makeup of the landscape and hence the maps of Switzerland, it also affects every area of society. A new, dynamic glacier inventory makes the impact of climate change and the changing landscape visible.[caption id="attachment_3695" align="alignright" width="300"] Glacier observation under the spell of several Valais four-thousand-metre peaks. (Image copyright: GLAMOS / ETHZ)The last time Swiss glaciers managed to grow at all was in 2001. Since then, the country’s 1,500 glaciers – as well as others elsewhere – have been suffering a slow but inexorable death. Until now, though, we have understood only partially how quickly they are really disappearing, and what effect that has on the landscape, people and animals. That is about to change, thanks to the Glacier Monitoring in Switzerland (GLAMOS) project. GLAMOS is working on behalf of various Swiss federal offices to...
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Why we explored an undisturbed rainforest hidden on top of an African mountain

Written by Simon Willcock, Lecturer in Environmental Geography at Bangor University and Phil Platts, Research Fellow, University of York. Atop Mount Lico in northern Mozambique is a site that few have had the pleasure of seeing – a hidden rainforest, protected by a steep circle of rock. Though the mountain was known to locals, the forest itself remained a secret until six years ago, when Julian Bayliss spotted it on satellite imagery. It wasn’t until last year, however, that he revealed his discovery, at the Oxford Nature Festival. We recently visited the 700 metre-high mountaintop rainforest in an expedition organised by Bayliss, in collaboration with Mozambique’s Natural History Museum and National Herbarium. As far as anyone knew (including the locals), we would be the first people to set foot there (spoiler: we weren’t). Since the rainforest’s discovery, Lico has received worldwide attention. That it captured the public’s imagination speaks volumes about how...
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Honey Hunting: An Age-Old Tradition Meets Modern Threats

[caption id="attachment_3654" align="alignright" width="300"] Apis Laboriosa, the Himalayan giant honey bee, is the largest honeybee in the world. Photo: Niraj Karki.Wild honey from Apis Laboriosa, the Himalayan giant honey bee, has been gathered by Gurung people from cliffs in the Himalayan foothills of Nepal for centuries. Apis Laboriosa is the largest honeybee in the world, and is referred to as ‘Bheer-Mauri’ in Nepali, which directly translates into ‘cliff bee.’ It is crucial for pollinating wild flora and crops in the mountains. The Gurung people across many parts of Nepal, especially the Kaski and Lamjung Districts, value their tradition of honey hunting as part of their lifestyle, and collect honey twice a year during the spring and autumn. The honey they gather is prized due to both its medicinal properties and monetary worth.Every year, during the start of the spring or autumn season, the local Shaman (priest or the elder of the tribe) of...
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