GLORIA–Europe is a pilot project of the Global Research Initiative in Alpine Environments, which will ultimately operate on a worldwide scale (see MRD Vol 20 No 2, pp 190–191). The project is funded by the European Union as a contribution to the fifth research and technological development (RTD) framework. The research consortium is coordinated by the Institute of Ecology and Conservation Biology of the University of Vienna under the leadership of Prof Georg Grabherr and his team (consisting of Michael Gottfried, Daniela Hohenwallner, Harald Pauli, and Karl Reiter). It is made up of a data supplier group and a user group. Data suppliers are contractors responsible for implementing the basic GLORIA setting on summits at different elevations in their particular target region (ie, the multisummit approach previously described in MRD).
The 18 target regions are (1) Sierra Nevada (Spain), (2) Central Pyrenees (Spain), (3) Ritondu of Corsica (France), (4) Central Apennines (Italy), (5) Northern Apennines (Italy), (6) Lefka Ori of Crete (Greece), (7) Mercantour–Southwestern Alps (France), (8) Entre mont–Western Alps (Switzerland), (9) Dolomites–Southern Alps (Italy), (10) Hochschwab–Northeastern Alps (Austria), (11) Tatra–Western Carpathians (Slovakia), (12) Rodnei–Eastern Carpathians (Romania), (13) Central Caucasus (Georgia), (14) Cairngorms–Scotland (UK), (15) Dovrefjell–Southern Scandes (Norway), (16) Latnjajaure–Northern Scandes (Sweden), (17) Southern Ural (Russia), and (18) Polar Ural (Russia).
A broad network
The supplier groups are based either at universities close to the target regions or at research institutes. Two NGOs are involved as users: CIPRA (International Commission for the Protection of the Alps) and WWF International (World Wide Fund for Nature). Prof Martin Price (University of the Highlands and Islands, Perth College, Scotland) provides a link to the International Mountain Forum (MF) and to socioeconomic perspectives on GLORIA, while the recently established Mountain Research Initiative (MRI) in the International Geosphere-Biosphere Program (IGBP) is a link to international research programs. Close contacts also exist with the Global Mountain Biodiversity Assessment (GMBA) program of DIVERSITAS and the Global Terrestrial Observation System (GTOS). GLORIA–Europe is also recognized by the European Environmental Agency (EEA) as a part of European environmental monitoring activities.
Kickoff meeting in Vienna
GLORIA activities were officially initiated on 1 January 2001. At the kickoff meeting organized by the coordinating group in Vienna, held from 25 to 29 April, 38 scientists discussed and finalized the field manual for the basic GLORIA settings. As an introduction, the coordinating group demonstrated how to establish a setting in the field: a prehistoric tumulus (Hallstatt Period) close to Vienna, covered by pannonic steppe vegetation, was chosen as a “perfect summit.” It was an exciting experience for the participants to discuss the GLORIA program and methodology on an old Celtic tomb far from the place where Celts live today. This group of scientists from all over Europe, who will be working in close cooperation in the future, thus had a profound impression of the historic roots of modern Europe.
The second day was devoted to the presentation of the particular target regions by the contractors. They provided an excellent overview of the differences among Europe's mountains while also stressing the similarities of European high mountain systems. On the third day, the draft version of the field manual was discussed and revised. This field manual will be the basic document used in fieldwork by all GLORIA partners. It is available to all interested parties and can be downloaded from the Internet at www.gloria.ac.at.
This final version of the multisummit approach is the result of 2 years of international discussions and cooperation. The GLORIA coordinators received many useful comments, not only from the European contractors but also from many other scientists and colleagues around the globe.
At the end of the meeting, discussions focused on a contract dealing with publication and handling of data. A small group extended their stay in Vienna to see more of the Eastern end of the Alps, that is, the city of Vienna and its surroundings.
Plans for the future
The time schedule for GLORIA–Europe is 1 January 2001 to 31 July 2003. The first outputs, that is, descriptions of the target regions, will be available in about 1 year. A book will be produced as a final product, presenting the first comprehensive comparison of Alpine biodiversity based on a standardized methodology. The enthusiastic atmosphere of the kickoff meeting convinced everyone that the GLORIA initiative is on its way to establishing a simple, low-cost but highly efficient ecological monitoring system at the European and, ultimately, the global scale.