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Risks and hazards associated with climate change and geological factors, especially in the world's youngest mountains, are inevitable and may have been exacerbated in recent decades. However reports about increased landslips and landslides in some areas are being presented as examples to argue that most natural hazards in mountain areas are due to climate change. Based on a field study in the Yourjogh area of Chitral District in Pakistan, we argue that this discourse is based on generalized conclusions that do not hold in all cases and for all types of disasters. Our study challenges the climate change discourse as disregarding the political dimension of water management that also contributes to landslides and landslips in Pakistan's mountainous regions. The climate change discourse has taken the politics out of external-donor-led development interventions that replaced traditional irrigation management practices and institutions with an arrangement in which external development agencies and the state control crucial economic and social processes that shape the distribution of water. This not only depoliticizes disasters and their effects but also leads to further mismanagement of abundantly available irrigation water, contributing to the frequent occurrence of landslips in our study area. We conclude that attributing hazards only to climatic or geological factors leaves little room to promote locally appropriate solutions for locally created hazards.
High mountain areas are experiencing some of the earliest and greatest impacts of climate change. However, knowledge on how climate change impacts multiple ecosystem services that benefit different stakeholder groups remains scattered in the literature. This article presents a review of the literature on climate change impacts on ecosystem services benefiting local communities and tourists in high mountain areas. Results show a lack of studies focused on the global South, especially where there are tropical glaciers, which are likely to be the first to disappear. Climate change impacts can be classified as impacts on food and feed, water availability, natural hazards regulation, spirituality and cultural identity, aesthetics, and recreation. In turn, climate change impacts on infrastructure and accessibility also affect ecosystem services. Several of these impacts are a direct threat to the lives of mountain peoples, their livelihoods and their culture. Mountain tourism is experiencing abrupt changes too. The magnitude of impacts make it necessary to strengthen measures to adapt to climate change in high mountain areas.
The western highlands of Guatemala lie within the area where maize was first domesticated, and maize remains central to farmers' livelihood security. Over 50% of the population in the region are in poverty, and over 48% suffer from chronic malnutrition. Development efforts have focused on improved land management, crop diversification, and improved access to markets, especially for high-value vegetable crops such as snow peas. As a result of successful initiatives worldwide, more attention is being directed at the extent to which farmers can benefit from market opportunities for indigenous crops by receiving a price premium for providing the environmental service of conserving agricultural biodiversity. Such an approach bridges the gap between poverty alleviation and in situ conservation. We explored this potential development pathway through both qualitative and quantitative research. Focus groups were conducted in 5 communities in the maize-growing highlands of Guatemala, followed by a survey of 989 farm households in 59 locations. Our results show that most farmers in the western highlands of Guatemala are severely maize deficient; on average, farm households produce enough maize for only 6.9 months of consumption a year and are forced to purchase maize to meet basic consumption needs. The results are in sharp contrast to research conducted in highland communities in neighboring Mexico, where many farmers are able to sell their maize in relatively lucrative specialty maize markets. In the context of renewed interest in reducing poverty in Central America, our research suggests that rather than focus on market development for local maize varieties, development efforts should target other types of interventions.
The importance of mountains as “natural water towers” has been quantified by comparing water budgets in upstream (mountain) and downstream (lowland) areas, but their importance for tap water supplies has not been assessed. Here, we propose an isoscape approach to estimate the mean recharge elevation of tap water sources (rivers, reservoirs, springs, and wells) and apply it to a region in central Japan as a case study. Errors in the estimation of mean recharge elevation were estimated at 90–140 m. Results show that mean recharge elevations for about 90% of sources in the region are at 1000 m above sea level or higher. A little over half of the land area is above that elevation, while 98% of the population lives below it. These findings indicate that tap water disproportionally depends on recharge in mountains and is disproportionately supplied to lowland residents. Higher locations of spring water sources and longer (vertical) distances of groundwater flow for well water sources make the recharge-to-population disproportionality more remarkable. Furthermore, our results suggest that larger cities require higher natural water towers to meet greater water demand, complemented by intermunicipal water suppliers. Some low-elevation municipalities depend heavily on water recharged in mountains well outside their territories. The method proposed here helps clarify how people depend on water supplies from mountains, providing essential knowledge for integrated management of mountains and water resources.
Bark of Daphne bholua is an important non-timber forest product and makes a substantial contribution to the Nepalese economy. A precise estimate of the amount of D. bholua bark in mountain forests is possible using a biomass model. We developed an allometric bark biomass model for naturally grown D. bholua in Baglung District in the mid-hills of Nepal. The model was based on data from 101 destructively sampled D. bholua on 20 sample plots representing different growth stages (regeneration, established, and matured), site qualities, and stand densities, and we used diameter and height–diameter ratio as predictors. Among 9 functions evaluated, a simple power function showed the best fit to the data. This model described most of the variations in bark biomass with no substantial trends in the residuals. Leave-one-out cross-validation also confirmed the high precision of this model, because it described most of the variations in bark biomass with no substantial trends in the prediction errors. The model can be applied for a precise prediction of bark biomass for individuals of D. bholua with diameters and height–diameter ratios similar to those used in this study. It is site-specific, and its application should therefore be limited to sites with growth stage, site quality, stand density, and species distribution similar to those that formed the basis of this study. Further validation and verification of this model, with a larger dataset collected from sites with a wider range of these characteristics, is recommended.
As a valuable entomophagus fungus species, caterpillar fungus (Ophiocordyceps sinensis) is endemic to the alpine meadows of the Tibetan Plateau and adjoining Himalayas. However, little is known about its ecological niche and habitat. We investigated its associated plant species and habitat across different sites in Dolpa, west Nepal, and explored how associated plant species and soil characteristics affect its density and growth during the months of June and July in 2 consecutive years. Detrended correspondence analysis was used to capture the distribution pattern of plant species. Principal component analysis was applied to visualize the gradients of the soil data, and generalized linear models were employed to test the effects of nutrients and vegetation on the availability and size of caterpillar fungus. A total of 33 plant species were frequently associated with caterpillar fungus across the investigated sites. The abundance of the fungus was significantly affected by vegetation composition, whereas the individual fungal traits were independent of soil nutrients or vegetation composition. Therefore, it is essential to protect associated plant species to better conserve caterpillar fungus at high elevations.
The adoption of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and the Paris Agreement of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change has propelled the effective implementation of sustainable mountain development. The 2030 Agenda recognizes that livelihoods and natural resources cannot be addressed separately. Investing in the sustainable development of mountain communities and ecosystem conservation will provide benefits for humanity as a whole. Since its appointment as task manager for Chapter 13 of Agenda 21 in 1992, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) has worked for sustainable mountain development and has thus contributed to increasing global awareness of the importance of mountain ecosystems and the plight of mountain peoples.
The African continent is endowed with mountains of high productivity, biodiversity, endemism, and cultural diversity. African mountain ecosystems play an important role in economic development, poverty alleviation, and environmental protection. However, climate change and extreme events, as well as human activities, alter the capacity of mountains to provide such services to millions of Africans who depend on them. Since the creation in 1995 of the Albertine Rift Conservation Society (ARCOS), mountains have been at the core of its programs, and collaboration among stakeholders is a key aspect of its search for sustainable solutions to threats affecting African mountains.