Mountain areas occupy 24% of the Earth’s land surface; they are home to 12% of the global population, and another 14% of the population live in their immediate proximity. Globally, mountain areas are vital sources of water for agricultural, industrial, and domestic use. They include major centres of biodiversity, often coinciding with centres of cultural diversity where traditional ecological knowledge is maintained. In an urbanising world, mountain areas are key locations for tourism and recreation; some include major urban areas.
Mountain systems are particularly fragile, and subject to both natural and anthropogenic drivers of change. These range from volcanic and seismic events and flooding to global climate change and the loss of vegetation and soils because of inappropriate agricultural and forestry practices and extractive industries. Thus, many mountain ecosystems are moving along trajectories that couple high rates of environmental change with strong economic changes. The collective effect may be to alter the ability of these ecosystems to provide critical goods and services to both mountain and lowland populations. The vital linkages between mountain and lowland systems are increasingly recognised in global and regional policy debates and action. These diverse and inter-related issues have been addressed in two international conferences organised by the Centre for Mountain Studies in Perth, in 2005 and 2010, and provide the context for the 2015 conference.
To present, evaluate and synthesise progress in our understanding of global change in mountain regions, and share examples of innovative approaches, particularly in terms of progress towards addressing the gaps in global research in mountain regions noted at the 2010 conference:
- limited focus on social systems, and of linkages and feedbacks between social and ecological systems, particularly needed to identify nonlinearities and thresholds (tipping points) and the scales at which key processes and interactions occur;
- from the ecological systems perspective: disentangling and assessing the different drivers of change and investigating impacts on the provision of ecosystem services;
- from the social systems perspective: understanding the characteristics, trends, and impacts of human movements to, within and out of mountain areas;
- understanding the sociocultural drivers affecting collective behaviour and incentive systems devised by policy- and decision-makers.
These themes were summarized in a paper published in 2012 in the special issue of Mountain Research and Development (volume 32, supplement) devoted to papers and outcomes of the conference; a similar publication is planned as a result of the 2015 conference. It is also anticipated that sessions at the conference will be used as the basis for special issues of other journals, including the Journal of Mountain Science and eco.mont.
To refine and agree agendas for collaborative research and action relating to global change and mountain regions, and to significantly increase the use of applied research findings on the ground in mountain regions. This aim will be addressed by taking into consideration:
- scientific initiatives, notably MRI, GMBA, Future Earth, and GEO-GNOME (Global Network for Observations and Information in Mountain Environments):
- regional and global assessment and policy processes, such as those relating to regional conventions and other initiatives, the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change and the IPCC, the Convention on Biological Diversity and IPBES, the outcomes of the Rio+20 meeting and the Sustainable Development Goals;
- the work of the Mountain Partnership, both regionally and globally.
Specific goals may include:
- creating a framework for assessing the current status of sustainable mountain development;
- specifying the policy and management processes that matter, and the key points of entry;
- identifying means to measure and address the Sustainable Development Goals relating to mountain areas;
- evaluating achievements and strategies of the Mountain Partnership and implementation processes in specific mountain regions, in order to contribute to more effective future implementation;
- agreeing key themes for the MRI network until 2020.
Recommendations resulting from this aim will be summarized in strategic documents and policy briefs.
To foster effective interdisciplinary and international interactions between participants: researchers, practitioners, and policy-makers. An important starting point will be to evaluate case studies of both successful and unsuccessful collaborations.
Specific opportunities will be provided to strengthen ongoing research activities and to foster new collaborations: thematic and/or regional.