A new article published in the American Geophysical Union (AGU) news magazine Eos describes research efforts using traditional and innovative survey methods to study glacier retreat and dynamics in the Andes. This article resulted from an MRI-funded Synthesis Workshop.

In the article 'Adapting to Receding Glaciers in the Tropical Andes,' lead author Tania Rojas and co-authors and Synthesis Workshop organizers Jorge Abad Cueva, Pedro Rau Lavado, and Duncan Quincey show that integrated approaches are needed to understand and respond to changes in tropical mountain ecosystems and communities brought about by receding glaciers and changes in land use.

Focusing on Peru, the article authors describe traditional and innovative survey methods to research glacier retreat and dynamics in the Andes, which are home to roughly 95% of the world’s tropical glaciers. Continuing such research efforts is crucial, the authors stress, particularly given that the degradation of mountain environments disproportionately affects populations relying on tropical glaciers in the Global South.

The article outlines the complex climate change-related challenges and hazards Andean communities face, and details recent efforts to understand mechanisms and rates of glacier recession in tropical mountain environments and how these recessions affect human communities that rely on glaciers and mountain ecosystems. These include monitoring precipitation, modeling water availability, measuring vegetation changes, and creating new conservation areas in the Peruvian Andes.  

Multiple projects are bridging science and policy to manage water and assess risk in Andean environments. Taking cultural and historical considerations into account is key, the researchers write, since the Andes and their glaciers not only provide freshwater resources and serve as climate change indicators, but also underpin the cultural identities and practices of Indigenous communities. The overarching message of the article and the Synthesis Workshop: "holistically understanding ongoing changes to tropical mountain glaciers and their surrounding environments, and current and future impacts on the people that depend on those environments, requires interdisciplinary approaches to developing feasible, effective, and acceptable adaptation and mitigation measures."

This article resulted from an MRI-funded Synthesis Workshop. Find more information about Synthesis Workshops here

Read the article in full:

Rojas, T. V., Quincey, D., Rau, P., Horna-Muñoz, D., & Abad, J. D. (2021). Adapting to Receding Glaciers in the Tropical Andes. Eos102. https://doi.org/10.1029/2021EO210525

Cover image: Melting glaciers in mountain environments feed inland wetlands, known in the Andes as bofedales. Credit: PEGASUS and RAHU projects, Universidad de Ingeniería y Tecnología (UTEC). 

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