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Center for Global Mountain Safeguard Research - News & Events - Summiting challenges - talking mountains with Stefan Schneiderbauer

07 December 23

Summiting challenges - talking mountains with Stefan Schneiderbauer

  • English

Safeguarding Mountain Social-Ecological Systems is a newly published book examining and seeking solutions to the global challenges faced by mountain regions the world over.

Initially, Safeguarding Mountain Social-Ecological Systems was planned to be published in one volume but in the middle of the writing process it soon became clear that so much information would not be possible to contain in just one book. The first volume: A Global Challenge - Facing Emerging Risks and Adapting to Changing Environments is now out, volume two which focuses on building transformative resilience will come out in the middle of next year.

By providing a state-of-the-art overview of relevant research in mountain regions worldwide, the collaborative publication identifies existing challenges and enhances the understanding of the diversity of mountain contexts in different geographic regions from a variety of perspectives. The book also facilitates the greater recognition of mountain issues within international frameworks by comparing these areas to coastal areas and mega-cities. Released by the esteemed publishing house Elsevier, Safeguarding Mountain Social-Ecological Systems highlights the increasing pressures of changing climate conditions, natural hazards, and socioeconomic processes are impacting mountains within an increasingly complex, interconnected, and globalized world. The book emphasizes the invaluable services provided by mountain ecosystems, which benefit at least half of the global population through their supply and provision of water, protection from natural hazards, space for biodiversity and recreation similar activities etc., as well as showcasing the diversity of approaches to sustainable development in mountain regions. Chapters are provided by a large variety of contributors which includes experts, academics, sectors from the United Nations, and civil society practitioners. Stefan Schneiderbauer head of the GLOMOS programme and the book’s main editor, shares his insights on how, in times of unprecedented change, a greater focus on mountains is needed.

Q: What really stands out about this book?

  • Stefan Schneiderbauer: Many of the already existing mountain books tend to only focus on a single specific challenge faced by mountain regions such as biodiversity loss or out-migration, or on one specific mountain region, like the Alps or the Andes. This book is different, first at all it looks at mountains worldwide and analyses major challenges of mountain social – ecological systems in general (Volume 1) and then scrutinizes region-specific issues and solutions for resilience building of such systems for the main global mountain regions (Volume 2). In this way, our book summarises key results of mountain research worldwide and at the same time contributes to lobbying for mountains and their visibility in the international arena – we also see our work supporting the pathway to achieving the SDGs.

Q: This sounds very complex, how did you organize and structure your book?

  • It was! For our small team this book project represented a challenge to be summited! Shaping and organizing the entire book with its wide range of topics and its size utilized almost all the resources of our entire team and of course the book content also went far beyond our specific knowledge of mountain regions worldwide. We therefore handed over the responsibility of generating the region-specific parts to key researchers of the respective mountain regions. These experts then took over the task to define the most relevant content for their regions and selected the contributing authors.

Q: What are problems shared by the lowlands and mountains alike and what are specific to mountain regions?

  • Common issues are that climate change impacts already being felt strongly for example by glacier retreat, rising risks of extreme weather events and related natural hazards, loss of biodiversity, and of course there are power issues. Who makes decisions of relevance for mountain regions? These are mostly taken by people who are not from nor live in the mountains. Another important aspect is the outmigration of mountain dwellers. Outmigration happens for a range of reasons and of course is highly nuanced, reasons are due to the remoteness of these regions, their distance from cities and centers of education, wealth and culture and so on. At the same time, mountains are increasingly facing both positive and negative consequences of tourism particularly against the background of rising and increasingly unbearable temperatures in the summer in the lowlands.
  • There are also many differences between specific mountain regions, first of all between those in high income versus those in low-income countries. This is clearly visible for example when looking at the different levels of protection of nature versus exploitation of natural resources, particularly mining, forest, watershed management, but also in the available capacities and resources to invest in the management of natural hazards risks …we might need a third volume!
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