Professor believes that mountain ecosystems should be prioritized in biodiversity policies

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More action is urgently needed to safeguard the world’s precious mountain ecosystems, according to a York University researcher whose policy brief is being presented at this month’s United Nations Conference on Biodiversity (“COP15”) in Montreal, Canada.

Professor Robert Marchant calls on national governments to place mountain environments at the center of their climate change and biodiversity policy efforts and actions.

The United Nations General Assembly named 2022 the International Year for Sustainable Mountain Development, some 20 years after the first International Year of Mountains. But while some successes have been achieved in that time, Professor Marchant says national policy is simply not keeping up with land use change, development, population growth and the impacts of climate change on the global mountain systems.

“Twenty years later, climates continue to change, populations continue to grow, and mountain environments continue to develop and transform, but what hasn’t happened is a corresponding establishment of sustainable policies,” he explains.

“Government environmental and trade policies rarely come together and we are seeing continued widespread land degradation in mountain habitats. This includes uncontrolled grazing, deforestation or overdevelopment, and much of it is the result of policies weak and changing tenure laws.

Mountains cover about a quarter of the land mass of the earth. They are home to about half of the world’s biodiversity hotspots. They are a very important component of the global water supply because they receive more rainfall than lowland areas, experience less evaporation at high elevations, and contain large reserves of water in the form of snow and ice.

Well-functioning mountain ecosystems are more resilient to climate extremes (they can buffer shocks such as high-intensity rainstorms or prolonged dry spells) and are important carbon sinks and repositories of biodiversity.

Despite this, mountains do not receive the corresponding political attention or investment from their national governments. They are particularly vulnerable to climate change and human interventions, which threaten their globally important ecosystem services.

For example, the area around Mount Kilimanjaro in Kenya is an area of ​​high population density and rapid economic development. It has seen a huge expansion in agriculture in the last twenty years, as land has been privatized and companies have realized they can drill deep wells into the land to draw water from the mountain aquifer.

Professor Marchant notes: “Once you’ve paid for that well, the water is a free resource for you. But these services are provided by nature, and no one is currently paying for either the water resources or the stewardship of that land. Asking companies to pay for this type of service, for example by issuing controllable permits, would be a step towards treating our mountain resources with more respect.”

Professor Marchant and his co-authors are calling on countries to invest more in mountain ecosystem restoration activities and to formulate effective climate change policies that consider the unique nature and resources of mountains. More international information sharing and data collection on the use of mountains is also urgently needed, as is better analysis of current restoration initiatives taking place around the world.

He says: “We hope for some progress at COP15, but what is really needed is an international treaty or code of practice that accepts the value of our mountain ecosystems, and I suspect that is some way off.”

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Provided by York University

Citation: Professor Opines Mountain Ecosystems Should Be Prioritized in Biodiversity Policies (2022, December 12) Accessed December 12, 2022 at mountain-ecosystems-prioritized.html

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