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A view from the top: mountain forests

Klas Sander's picture

“Mountain Forests – roots to our future”. That was the headline for this year’s International Mountain Day celebrated by the UN every 11th of December since 2003. This year especially emphasized the interdisciplinary implications of sustainable mountain development. Whenever I have the opportunity to spend time in mountains, I realize how strongly the different elements in that landscape depend on each other and how fragile it all is. Earlier this year, for example, I had the privilege to visit the mountain gorillas in Rwanda. The experience of seeing these amazing animals in their natural habitat was incredible and it wasn’t just the climb up the Virunga Volcanoes that was breathtaking.

But the conservation of this ecosystem does not only provide benefits in terms of biodiversity conservation. Adjacent communities and the Government of Rwanda as a whole benefit from the income streams the tourism sector generates. Protecting the ecosystem also helps to assure sustainable flow of water from these “water towers” benefiting agriculture and lowland ecosystems alike. Not only are the Virunga gorillas and other mountain species threatened by climate change but there are also consequences for the communities that depend on them.

Covering 24% of the Earth’s surface, mountain ecosystems play a critical role in maintaining a sustainable flow of resources to the plains below. Mountains are the source for nearly 50% of the world’s freshwater for direct consumption, agriculture, and energy. Also, mountain tourism accounts for 15-20% of the world’s tourism industry, totaling an estimated $US70-90 billion per year. Mountain regions are also severely impacted by climate change, which only magnifies existing development challenges. Ecosystems will experience a vertical shift, as climates warm, generally flora and fauna will move towards higher altitudes. Fragile alpine ecosystems systems and endemic flora and fauna are likely to change resulting in significant negative ecological and socio-economic implications.

Climate dilemmas in Central Asia

Rasmus Heltberg's picture
    Photo © Rasmus Heltberg/World Bank

How should climate change be addressed in Tajikistan, the poorest and—according to a World Bank regional assessment, most climate-vulnerable—country in Eastern Europe and Central Asia?1  On a recent visit to this scenic nation to assess the poverty aspects of climate change, we struggled with this seemingly simple question. Answers remain elusive, given the country’s daunting climate dilemmas. So, while in Dushanbe, I attempted to write about the range of the challenge.

First, consider Tajikistan’s thousands of glaciers, many of which are receding. As they melt, farmers downstream enjoy plentiful water supply and see no need to take action. However, once the glaciers are gone, dry rivers and extreme water scarcity could mean the end of farming livelihoods in some areas.

The World Water Forum in Istanbul: Bridging the divides?

Julia Bucknall's picture
World Water Forum

Photo © Julia Bucknall/World Bank

Twenty thousand people milling around thematic, country, commercial booths, attending political, learning, and topical sessions, watching musical and dance performances, and busily socializing in the hallways. All trying to work out how we can better manage water.

"Bridging the Divides" is the perfect name for this conference here in Istanbul. It's a city that links Asia and Europe, a city where many cultures have collided and where the religious buildings have housed worshipers and artifacts from different faiths.