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Mountains are facing growing environmental, social, and economic challenges. Accordingly, effective policies and management approaches are needed to safeguard their inhabitants, their ecosystems, their biodiversity, and the livelihoods they support. The formulation and implementation of such policies and approaches requires a thorough understanding of, and extensive knowledge about, the interactions between nature and people particular to mountain social–ecological systems. Here, we applied the conceptual framework of the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services to assess and compare the contents of 631 abstracts on the interactions among biodiversity, ecosystem services, human wellbeing, and drivers of change, and formulate a set of research recommendations. Our comparative assessment of literature pertained to the Andes, the East African mountains, the European Alps, and the Hindu Kush Himalaya. It revealed interesting differences between mountain systems, in particular in the relative importance given in the literature to individual drivers of change and to the ecosystem services delivered along elevational gradients. Based on our analysis and with reference to alternative conceptual frameworks of mountain social–ecological systems, we propose future research directions and options. In particular, we recommend improving biodiversity information, generating spatially explicit knowledge on ecosystem services, integrating knowledge and action along elevational gradients, generating knowledge on interacting effects of global change drivers, delivering knowledge that is relevant for transformative action toward sustainable mountain development, and using comprehensive concepts and codesigned approaches to effectively address knowledge gaps.
Mountain regions face important environmental and socioeconomic challenges. They are strongly affected by global warming, and their main economic sectors (agriculture, energy production, and tourism) strive to adapt to this and other global changes. Moreover, in a context of economic globalization, the constraints inherent to mountain regions (slope, isolation, and marginalization) make them uncompetitive in comparison with lowland or coastal regions. To address these issues in an inter- and transdisciplinary manner, and from a perspective of transformation research, the University of Lausanne, Switzerland, has created the Interdisciplinary Centre for Mountain Research, which this article presents.