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‘Academic conference tourism’ allows delegates to understand mountain issues first hand

Introduction [caption id="attachment_2446" align="alignleft" width="300"] Street scene, road into MoshiI have had the privilege to visit many unusual places by attending research conferences, an activity I jokingly call ‘academic tourism’.  Perhaps the Mt Kili-AfroMont mountain research conference could be considered an ‘academic tourism’ event in that, as well as the science meeting, it gave delegates an opportunity to see and share information about a rural African mountain landscape at first hand. The Mt Kili-AfroMont conference was held in a worth locality, Moshi (pop.185 000), a small town in Tanzania, within sight of massive Mt Kilimanjaro (5895 masl).  Moshi itself is a bustling rural town, well-organised, but shabby as so many towns in Africa are. Yet, Moshi roars with life 24 hours a day, demonstrating that Africa can out-shop, out-trade, out-party and out-public transport everyone else, despite unruly traffic flows of battered vehicles, swarms of motorbikes, and potholes in the roads.Conference speakers...
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Ecological Calendars and Climate Adaptation in the Pamirs

What are Ecological Calendars? [caption id="attachment_2436" align="alignleft" width="300"] Figure 1. ECCAP Logo, designed by Navajo Artist, Natani Notah, andKarim-Aly Kassam.Calendars enable us to anticipate future conditions and plan activities. Ecological calendars keep track of time by observing seasonal changes in our habitat (Fig. 1). The nascence of a flower, emergence of an insect, arrival of a migratory bird, breakup of ice, or last day of snow cover - each is a useful cue for livelihood activities, such as sowing crops, gathering plants, herding animals, hunting, fishing, or observing cultural festivals.[caption id="attachment_2435" align="alignright" width="300"] Figure 2. Gathering fodder in Guddara. Photo: Karim-Aly Kassam.Many human communities have developed unique and reliable systems to recognize and respond to climatic variability (Fig. 2). Over the course of multiple generations living in particular landscapes, people have accumulated knowledge of the relational timing of celestial, meteorological and ecological phenomena. Historically, these diverse ecological calendars enabled communities to...
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Poleka Kasue Mountain Observatory, Los Nevados Natural Park, Colombia

[caption id="attachment_2405" align="alignleft" width="300"] Lupinus alopecuroides and Senecio isabelis individuals on a steep slopein the Lupinus Valley, north face of Poleka Kasue/Santa Isabel Nevado.In the heart of the Colombian Andes lies the magical Los Nevados Natural Park, one of the few places on Earth that has the unique and fascinating páramo ecosystem. The páramo is home to a great variety of plants and wildlife, many of them endemic to this environment. Hundreds of people live in Los Nevados, thousands of tourists visit the park every year, and a million people drink from its waters in the lowlands. The overwhelming peacefulness and beauty of the park immediately enchants. Unfortunately, we have seen changes in Los Nevados that have made us question how we can preserve something we do not fully understand. We began a research initiative, the Poleka Kasue Mountain Observatory, to preserve the valuable páramo ecosystem and to make the magnificence...
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P3: People, Pollution, and Pathogens— Mountain Ecosystems in a Human-Altered World

Trouble in Paradise [caption id="attachment_2382" align="alignleft" width="300"] Figure 1. Lake Acherito (Ibon Acherito) on the Spanish side of the Pyrenees. The lake harbors several amphibian species, including the endemic Calotriton asper. It is located at 1900 m elevation, and is the first site in the Pyrenees for which Bd was reported.We just had arrived in the French Pyrenees. The beauty of the Pyrenees was stunning, somehow reminiscent of the mighty Canadian Rockies in its wildness and remoteness. We marveled at the sharp peaks, clear waters and wonderfully green vegetation, and pondered the multitude of research threads we could explore in such a setting. As we discussed our priorities, a colleague mentioned Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis. This unpronounceable jumble of letters represents one of the most devastating amphibian diseases, and perhaps the single biggest threat to frogs, toads and salamanders. Bd, our colleague told us, had taken hold in the beautiful mountain watersheds of...
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NILE-NEXUS: Opportunities for a Sustainable Food-Energy-Water Future in the Blue Nile Mountains of Ethiopia

[caption id="attachment_2361" align="alignleft" width="219"] Figure 1. Waterfall in the Blue Nile Mountains. Photo: Jose Molina.I first met Belay Simane at a United Nations negotiation in Germany. We were both on government delegations to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change and during one of the many, many procedural delays we struck up conversation. It turned out neither of us were full-time negotiators. In fact, we were both researchers, and we were both looking at the same place but from very different scales. Belay is an agronomist, and he’d spent years working with farming communities of the Blue Nile Mountains of Ethiopia to advance household and village level climate resilience. I am a climate scientist and hydrologist, and I’d been working with NASA to study transboundary flows across the Nile basin with satellites and regional models. Over several cups of overpriced conference hall coffee, we began a discussion that has occupied...
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Ecological and Socioeconomic Impacts of Climate-Induced Tree Diebacks in Highland Forests

Background [caption id="attachment_2340" align="alignleft" width="300"] Figure 1. Entomologists sampling stands of Norway spruce dieback in the Bavarian Forest National Park, Germany. Photo: Heiner M.-Elsner.Mountain forests play a major role in the preservation of biodiversity and provide important ecosystem services such as climate regulation. However, some of these forests show extensive tree mortality (“forest diebacks”) caused by a combination of factors, such as severe and recurrent summer drought, pollution, and insect and pathogen outbreaks. Some of the most spectacular cases of forest diebacks are caused by bark beetle outbreaks, which have killed millions of hectares of conifer forests worldwide (Fig. 1).Forest diebacks are expected to become more widespread, frequent and severe. Indeed, warm and dry climate conditions increase the number of bark beetle generations per year and decrease tree vigor. Diebacks are accompanied by changes in tree species composition, which can happen either by natural regeneration or by artificial replacement with better-adapted...
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A field guide that unravels the hidden secrets of the páramo

[caption id="attachment_2315" align="alignleft" width="300"] Monitoring of meteorological variables in the Quinuas River Ecohydrological Observatory. (Photo credit: Galo Carrillo-Rojas)Can you imagine transporting to a magic realm full of beauty, nature and good vibe and being able to unravel its hidden secrets? Well, in the field guide attached to this post you will be taken to a short journey through two Ecohydrological Observatories in the páramo, where a bunch of enthusiastic and motivated young researchers have overcome the struggles of the environmental conditions in these sites located at the top of the Andean mountain range to discover its most hidden secrets. These pioneer investigators have provided answers to some simple but highly relevant questions in our days, such as: How much does it rain in the páramo? How does elevation influence climate in the Andean Highlands? How much do soils and vegetation evapotranspire? What is the origin, age and fate of water in...
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Naubise farmer finds relief in climate smart practices

[caption id="attachment_2301" align="alignleft" width="300"] Sita Neupane showcases her freshly harvested cucumbers grown without the use of chemical pesticides. (Ramdeo Sah/CEAPRED)Farmer Sita Neupane is the talk of the town this summer. Ms Neupane earned a whopping NPR 70,000, selling cucumbers from her vegetable patch that roughly spans 375 square metres. And, she did it all without using any chemical pesticides on her vegetable farm in Naubise, Mahadevstan-7 of Kavre Palanchowk District, Nepal. Ms Neupane attributes her success solely to Jholmal – a homemade bio-fertiliser and bio-pesticide.Naubise, like many other villages in Kavre, is known for a high incidence of pesticide use. As with many mountain farmers across the Hindu Kush Himalayan region, farmers here own small land parcels, rely heavily on chemical pesticides, and have limited knowledge about integrated pest management (IPM). A dry spell hit Kavre, last year. No rain fell in September, and the largely agricultural district suffered from high...
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'Mountains 2016' dedicated to Mountains’ vulnerability to climate change

It has been more than two months since Mountains 2016 took place in Bragança, Portugal. The outcomes and impacts of the conference were many and all of them significant. Mountains 2016 included the X European Mountain Convention (X EMC), dedicated to “Mountains’ vulnerability to climate change”, and the 1st International Conference on Research for Sustainable Development in Mountain Regions (1st ICRSDMR), dedicated to “Ecosystem services and sustainable development”.  X European Mountain Convention The X EMC (3 to 5 October 2016) brought to Bragança around 260 mountain actors (researchers, farmers, environmentalists, elected representatives from local and regional authorities, representatives of chambers of commerce and development agencies) to debate climate change adaptation in mountain areas. The X EMC presented a state-of-the-art of climate change in mountain areas in Europe from scientific, institutional and financial perspectives and, most importantly, promoted a broad debate on how people and particular mountain sectors can deal with climate...
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The Other White Mountains: A Window into the Boreal Future

“The field”. “Fieldwork”. Those phrases have magic in them, of more than one kind. The modern kind is we put that phrase in email autoresponders and it seems to absolve diverse failures. Apparently, others have patience for something that is becoming increasingly rare – time for fieldwork, time to go get the data from the big “out there”. But there’s another kind, the kind that implies some nostalgia for a time when more than a few scientists did everything, including writing their papers, in “the field”. Some immersed themselves for years in the processes they were studying “out there”. Not many of us do that for any meaningful length of time anymore.[caption id="attachment_2240" align="alignleft" width="300"] Figure 1. White Mountains burns. 2004fires burned hundreds of thousands of acres in this part of AlaskaThis trip, on the way to “out there”, and as if to remind me of the opportunity before me, the...
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