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Climate change in mountain areas

Jul 03, 2009

Mountain Biodiversity and Climate Change highlights the need to address the impacts of climate change on the Hindu Kush-Himalayan region. This publication by ICIMOD has been developed from contributions in a conference held last year that brought together some 75 renowned experts.

Mountain Biodiversity and Climate Change

Publisher: ICIMOD, 2009

In 2007, the Inter-Governmental Panel for Climate Change (IPCC) provided concrete evidence of the global relevance of climate change in its 4th Assessment Report, which shows that the Earth’s climate is definitely warming. Climate change is the most prominent force in global change.

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Most of the global biodiversity hotspots are located in mountain and coastal regions: they host the world’s most threatened and endemic species. A large number of the people in these areas live in poverty and need the biological resources for their subsistence. Mountains are also places of legend and refuge, and many human mountain inhabitants have settled in them in the past to escape religious or political persecution or wars in the lowlands.

Mountains began to receive attention during the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development (UNCED) in Rio in 1992, with a specific chapter in Agenda 21. This was followed by the UN General Assembly’s 2002 declaration of the ‘International Year of Mountains’, the World Summit on Sustainable Development in Johannesburg 2002, and the Global Mountain Summit in Bishkek 2002.

However, despite growing awareness about the importance of mountain systems, they continue to be marginalised by the global international development agenda. The mountainous countries have set aside 11.4% of their areas as protected area networks, however, and the Hindu Kush-Himalayan region has all or part of four global biodiversity hotspots that provide immense value in terms of ecosystem services.

In November 2008 ICIMOD hosted the International Mountain Biodiversity Conference. The conference brought together some 75 renowned biodiversity, climate change, and conservation experts, representatives of global programmes, and representatives of institutions in the eight countries that share the Himalayan region.

In addition to the main conference, two pre-conference workshops on ‘Mountain Transboundary Protected Areas’ and ‘Linking Geodata with Biodiversity Information’, and a post-conference workshop on ‘A Research Strategy on Global Change in Mountain Biosphere Reserves’ were also held.

Conserving biodiversity

These experts discussed ways of systematically gathering and sharing the information needed to develop a reliable picture of the present situation, and to formulate approaches towards a common future strategy for mountain biodiversity conservation.

The text of this booklet is based largely on the papers contributed to the main conference, prepared in form of answers to the questions we hear people asking.

The new paradigm of landscape-level interconnectivity between protected area systems takes a more inclusive perspective on expanding the biogeographic range so that natural adjustments to climate change can proceed without being restrictive.

"New adaptive land-use systems are identified  to increase capacity and give ownership to local communities"

To conserve ecological and cultural diversity, new adaptive land-use systems are identified in a participatory manner to increase capacity and give ownership to local communities over their natural resources.

Water and hydropower related PES, and ecotourism enforced payments to mountain communities are potential schemes that are being piloted and tested in the Hindu Kush-Himalayan region.

Several global programmes are active in mountain areas. The Global Observation Research Initiative in Alpine Environments (GLORIA) is a notable initiative for research into the impact of climate change on mountain areas. It makes use of the sensitivity of mountain areas at high elevations, which are not exposed to direct land-use impacts, to study the ecological effects of climate change.

Source : ICIMOD
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