The Group on Earth Observations Global Network for Observations and Information in Mountain Environments (GEO-GNOME) is a GEO Work Programme Initiative that seeks to to identify, collate, and make accessible transboundary and inter- and transdisciplinary data and information pertaining to environmental, ecological, and societal change in mountainous regions globally.

In so doing, it hopes to increase the ease with which the scientific research community, local, national, and regional decision makers, and other interested parties can access and use such data and information.

GEO-GNOME is co-led by the MRI and the National Research Council of Italy.

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Mountains are globally distributed environments that produce significant societal benefits. However, the ability of mountain regions to provide goods and services to both highland and lowland populations is seriously threatened by climatic and environmental changes, large-scale political and socio-economic transformations, unsustainable management of natural resources, and major gaps in the understanding of mountain systems. Decisions on policy and investment, from the level of local governments to international agencies, must be based on information and knowledge that reflects both the generalities and specificities of mountain regions. In addition, decision makers must confront the paucity of observations in high-altitude regions and relatively poor levels of understanding of mountain social-ecological systems.

The Group on Earth Observations Global Network for Observations and Information in Mountain Environments (GEO-GNOME) is a GEO Work Programme Initiative. Launched in 2016, it aims to bring together research institutions and mountain observation networks to collate and make available transboundary and inter- and transdisciplinary environmental and social-ecological data and information on global change in mountains. In so doing, it is hoped that mountains as a context will assume and retain a prominent position in all major global policy agendas, including the 2030 UN Agenda and its Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), reporting on climate change through the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) and the United Nations Convention on Climate Change (UNCCC), and the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction (DRR).


Upcoming GEO GNOME Events

  • GEO GNOME at GEO Week | Online | 2 - 6 November 2020


Activities for 2020-2022

The overarching objective of the Initiative are as follows:


  1. To identify the needs of diverse users of data and information pertaining to global mountain environments and, as far as possible, satisfy these needs by making relevant data freely discoverable, accessible, and usable
  2. Improve monitoring and understanding of mountain processes, and;
  3. Communicate, link, and develop reporting capacity that responds to policy needs

To achieve these objectives, numerous tasks and activities are underway or planned. These include holding surveys to ascertain users' data needs, workshops to establish observation priorities and approaches, and webinars to keep all interested participants informed. In addition, training material will be developed to help capacity building. Data will be made available via the GEOSS Portal. The full Implementation Plan can be accessed here.

In 2020, Dr. James Thornton was appointed GEO-GNOME Scientific Officer to focus on the implementation and coordination of tasks. 

Summary of forthcoming activities / recent outputs:

  1. Three alternative mountain delineations currently shown in Global Mountain Explorer will be made accessible via the GEO GEOSS portal (specifically the GEO-GNOME Community Portal, which is currently in Beta);
  2. Relevant existing datasets and other resources will be shared (again via the GEO-GNOME Community Portal);
  3. A list of Essential Climate Variables (ECVs), which should form priorities for monitoring in order to better track and understand ongoing change in mountainous environments, has been prepared and an associated manuscript submitted to the journal One Earth;
  4. The identification and publication of lists of other (e.g. biodiversity, social, socio-ecological) Essential Variables for monitoring in mountains is ongoing;
  5. Analyses will be undertaken seeking to identify fundamental knowledge gaps and user data needs, as well as the data that would be needed to fill them;
  6. A series of webinars and workshops will be held to communicate results and engage with the community. 

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Past GEO-GNOME Events


Past Achievements

The first aims and objectives of the GEO-GNOME were outlined in the GEO-GNOME 2017-2019 Work Plan, which was revised as part of the GEO-GNOME workshop in May 2018. A reorganisation and reformulation of objectives and tasks were agreed upon by the GEO-GNOME co-leads and participating Core Members. The outcomes of the workshop were presented in a peer-reviewed publication in Mountain Research and Development (See Adler et al. 2018).

Outputs and Products:

  • EBV & ESV Workshop report: Kulonen, A., Adler, C., Palazzi, E. (2020). GEO-GNOME Workshop “Identifying Essential Biodiversity Variables (EBVs) and Essential Societal Variables (ESVs) in Mountain Environments”. Global Network for Observations and Information in Mountain Environments. Bern: Mountain Research Initiative (MRI).
  • ECV Workshop report: Kulonen, A., Adler, C., Palazzi, E. (2019). GEO-GNOME Workshop “Essential Climate Variables for Observations in Mountains”. Global Network for Observations and Information in Mountain Environments. Bern: Mountain Research Initiative (MRI).
  • Comparison of areas and locations of mountains as portrayed via existing layers: Sayre, R., Frye, C., Karagulle, D., Krauer, J., Breyer, S., Aniello, P., Wright, D. J., Payne, D., Adler, C., Warner, H., Van Sistine, D. Paco & Cress, J. (2018). A New High-Resolution Map of World Mountains and an Online Tool for Visualizing and Comparing Characterizations of Global Mountain Distributions. Mountain Research and Development, 38 (3), 240- 249. DOI: 10.1659/mrd-journal-d-17-00107.1
  • A publication from the scoping workshop in 2018. Adler, C., Palazzi, E., Kulonen, A., Balsiger, J., Colangeli, G., Cripe, D., Forsythe, N., Goss-Durant, G., Guigoz, Y., Krauer, J., Payne, D., Pepin, N., Peralvo, M., Romero, J., Sayre, R., Shahgedanova, M., Weingartner, R. & Zebisch, M. (2018). Monitoring Mountains in a Changing World: New Horizons for the Global Network for Observations and Information on Mountain Environments (GEO-GNOME). Mountain Research and Development, 38 (3), 265-269. DOI: 10.1659/mrdjournal-d-8-00065.1
  • Global Mountain Explorer: a data viewer portal which allows for visualization and query of different mountain definitions (K1, K2 and K3)


Data Policy

GEO-GNOME adheres to and advocates a strong Open Data policy in accordance with the positions of GEO and the World Data System. We recognise, however, that certain types of sensitive data are subject to restrictions, and respect these.   



Being co-led by the Mountain Research Initiative (MRI) and with its links to Future Earth, GEO-GNOME subscribes to the notion of co-production of knowledge and user engagement. Under these principles, the use of new scientific knowledge in policy or decision-making is enhanced to the extent that policy and decision makers are actively engaged in the creation of that new knowledge. To achieve co-production within mountain regions, GEO-GNOME engages policy actors in a formal and on-going consultation process that will provide guidance regarding not only the nature of data they need but also their preferred means for accessing it and other technical aspects.



Specific commitments to date include:

  1. Over the period of the GEO Work Programme 2017-2019, the MRI invested considerable resources into GEO-GNOME. This investment facilitated the planning and hosting of a GEO-GNOME scoping workshop in May 2018, as well as the coordination and participation in subsequent publications to report on the outcomes and already achieved objectives.
  2. The Swiss Development and Cooperation Agency supports GEO-GNOME activities as part of its Adaptation at Altitude collaborative programme.
  3. The USGS Land Change Science Program provided support for delineating mountain regions (Objective 1 in 2017-2018), and continues to engage in the development and design of future activities.
  4. The EU H2020-funded project ECOPOTENTIAL, coordinated by CNR-DTA (National Research Council - Department of Earth System Science and Environmental Technologies), explored the use of Earth observations for the management of ecosystems, with mountain ecosystems as a specific sub-category. It was conceived as a EU contribution to GEO and has contributed in-kind to Objectives 2 and 3 in 2017-2019.
  5. The NextData project, which was lead by CNR-DTA and ended in December 2018, has also contributed to objectives 2 and 3 in 2017-2019 through the work of its researchers who are also involved in GEO-GNOME (in-kind contribution).
  6. Several tasks completed in 2017-2019 were funded largely by the participants themselves (in-kind contributions), as well as through small contributions and grants by MRI, Future Earth and the European Space Agency.


Leadership and coordination

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Elisa Palazzi (CNR/Italy)

Coordination (GEO-GNOME Scientific Officer):
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Members: Austria, Belgium, Brazil, Canada, China, Colombia, Denmark, EC, Ethiopia, France, Italy (ISAC-CNR), Japan, Kazakhstan, Mexico, New Zealand, Pakistan, Russian Federation, Slovakia, South Africa, Switzerland, Uganda, UK, USA (USGS)
Participating Organizations: ILTER, ICIMOD, UNEP, UNOOSA, WMO


Links with other GEO Initiatives

GEO BON, AmeriGEO, GEO Human Planet, GEO Eco, GEO4SDGs, EO4EA, GEO EVs (GEO Community Activity on Essential Variables), and Himalayan GEOSS.



GEO-GNOME is supported by the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC)

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