MOUNTAIN FUTURES

ECOSYSTEM RHYTHMS: UNDERSTANDING CHANGE

Due to elevation gradients, mountain ecosystems are governed by unique ecological rhythms; we need to update our scientific understanding of how these ecological cycles are affected by climate change and other global processes. Events in this theme will examine how researchers and mountain communities can together collect such data and combine it with indigenous knowledge systems in ways that support resilient mountain livelihoods.

  • Ecological Calendars –Seasonal Changes in Mountain Ecosystems and Communities
  • Ecosystem Responses – The Impact of Global Pressures such as Climate Change
  • Ecosystem Monitoring – Linking Traditional Knowledge with Modern Technology and Tools

 

Ecological Calendars – Seasonal Changes in Mountain Ecosystems and Communities

‘Ecological calendars’ are knowledge systems that use environmental and ecological indicators to synchronize agricultural activities with seasonal resource flows. Such calendars incorporate phenological and physical signals such as the arrival of a certain kind of migratory bird, or the first day of snow cover, as well as festivals and activities such as gathering wild edibles, sowing crops and moving livestock herds. Indigenous knowledge systems of this kind help mountain communities to manage their environments in ways that safeguard ecological health while enabling productive farming, and may also provide a practical way for local communities to anticipate and respond to climate variability.

However, ecological calendars must be continuously adapted in order to remain relevant to changing socio-cultural and ecological conditions: as external pressures such as migration, deforestation and climate change have intensified, these unique systems have been disrupted. Combining traditional and scientific knowledge may offer a way to recalibrate ecological and agricultural calendars for climate change adaptation, livelihood diversification, food security and biodiversity conservation.Panelists will address the following questions:

  • How do mountain communities operate their seasonal activities? Are seasonal indicators useful in tracking annual changes and conducting socio-economic activities?
  • What actions are needed from governments, funding bodies and others to support these knowledge systems?
  • How can knowledge based on weather records, phenological events, satellite imagery, climate models, and community practices be combined to co-generate hybrid knowledge? And how can different communities use this knowledge to address issues of food security and adaptation to global change?


Ecosystem Responses – The Impact of Global Pressures such as Climate Change

Ecosystems around the world are threatened by anthropogenic pressures such as land use change, overexploitation of natural resources, pollution and climate change. Climate change in particular could have widespread, serious impacts on vulnerable ecosystems and human communities: global mean temperature is predicted to rise by up to 7°C within this century, with high elevation ecosystems being more severely impacted than those on lower ground. This temperature shift is expected to result in an increasing number of extreme weather events such as prolonged droughts and extreme precipitation, while also leading to secondary impacts on public health and territorial conflict.

Numerous recent studies have highlighted likely climate change effects on abiotic and biotic interactions and ecosystem services. However, existing extrapolations regarding the expected trends of ecosystem responses - both qualitative and quantitative - to climate change have so far shown several limitations. Most of these limitations are due to the low predictability of future climate on a local scale, and the complexity of interactions on an ecosystem level. There is therefore a significant need for climate change studies to examine various ecosystems at different locations in order to quantify likely impacts and inform adaptation measures.

This session will address the following questions:

  • How can we increase our understanding of the impact of global pressures, and in particular the linkages and relationships between the different pressures affecting ecosystems?
  • How can we identify and scale up innovative methods for field research on the impact of global pressures, particularly those which might improve the validity and reliability of ecosystem modelling?
  • How can we develop cost-effective, sustainable mitigation and adaptation strategies to address the impact of global pressures (for example, climate-smart agriculture)?


Ecosystem Monitoring – Linking Traditional Knowledge with Modern Technology and Tools

In mountain communities all over the world, the evolution of traditional or indigenous knowledge has provided local communities with beliefs, practices and customs uniquely adapted to the circumstances in which they live. This knowledge has traditionally been the basis for local decision-making regarding agriculture, health, food and environmental management: the very means of survival. Traditional knowledge, therefore, is very much driven by the pragmatic, utilitarian and everyday demands of life, and has given many mountain communities a deep understanding of the ecosystems in which their societies are embedded. Combining this valuable knowledge with modern technology and tools could unlock novel strategies for adaptation to global changes. The development of strategies for sustainable mountain development should incorporate traditional knowledge and beliefs through the co-generation of hybrid knowledge.

This session will address the following questions:

  • How can traditional knowledge be leveraged to help mountain communities identify and exploit potentially valuable resources in a sustainable fashion?
  • How can traditional knowledge be utilised to increase the adaptive capacity of mountain communities in responding to global change?

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