From ‘Whom’ or ‘What’ do Protected Areas Shield the Environment? A Case Study from Mountainous Georgia

The expansion of protected areas has significant implications for local communities and economies. How can community involvement in this process build trust and help ensure sustainable socioeconomic development, and what are the challenges that such an expansion can generate? A new research project sets out to explore this topic in the context of the expansion of Georgia's Kazbegi National Park. Mountain and Rural Development Initiatives – Caucasus Region (MRD-Cau), based at Tbilisi State University, is a collaborative effort between several local and international scholars with the shared vision of pursuing solutions to pressing challenges in rural and mountainous Caucasus. This platform initiates research projects focused on tackling issues related to the transformation of socioeconomic and spatial conditions, mostly centered around tourism development, management of protected areas, territorial patterns of local economic activities, etc. Importantly, most of the projects are based on interdisciplinary approaches that aim to bolster sustainable and inclusive development....
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Ice Volume Calculated Anew

Written by Peter Rüegg. Source: ETH Zürich. Researchers have provided a new estimate for the glacier ice volume all around the world, excluding the Greenland and Antarctic ice sheets. Their conclusion: previous calculations overestimated the volume of the glaciers in High Mountain Asia. Climate change is causing glaciers to shrink around the world. Reduced meltwaters from these glaciers also have downstream effects, particularly on freshwater availability. A lack of meltwater can greatly restrict the water supply to many rivers, especially in arid regions such as the Andes or central Asia, that depend on this water source for agriculture. Up-to-date information on the worldwide ice volume is needed to assess how glaciers – and the freshwater reserves they supply – will develop, and how sea levels are set to change.Ice thickness calculated for 215,000 glaciersLed by ETH Zurich and the Swiss Federal Institute for Forest, Snow and Landscape Research WSL, an international team...
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Strong coupling between terrestrial and aquatic food webs found in Japanese mountain lakes

Lakes and ponds are important components of mountain ecosystems. Mountain lakes are mainly formed by volcanic craters, landslides and glaciers, which create beautiful alpine and subalpine landscapes and thus attract many tourists and hikers (cover photo). Such aquatic habitats also harbor rich and unique biodiversity including plants, animals, fungi and microbes. In addition to the ecological importance, the geomorphological, hydrological and biogeochemical significance of mountain lakes are also known, as they integrate the upstream watershed processes and influences the natural and human ecosystems located downstream in their embedded catchments. Therefore, lakes are now considered to provide high ecosystem service values in  mountainous landscapes. Field sampling in a subalpine mountain lake (Daigaku-numa Pond) located in the Daisetsu-Kogen swamp, Hokkaido, Japan. Lake water and plankton samples were collected from an inflatable boat using samplers. Ecologists have long recognized the strong coupling between terrestrial and aquatic food webs. For example, in small headwater streams...
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UNESCO Biosphere Reserves: Fertile Ground for Education

[caption id="attachment_3712" align="alignright" width="300"] Field meeting among biosphere reserve participants from Japan, Russia, and Belarus (funded by the Japanese National Commission for UNESCO)Written by Dr. Yoshihiko Iida, Research Associate at the United Nations University Institute for the Advanced Study of Sustainability, Operating Unit Ishikawa/Kanazawa, and Secretariat Advisor of the Mount Hakusan Biosphere Reserve Council.Mountain landscapes contain a wealth of both nature and culture, and have the potential to be used for a broad range of educational activities in fields as wide-ranging as climatology, ecology, history, and the arts. What is more, the results of these educational activities, such as the scientific monitoring of water sources and the study of disaster responses, can also be applied to further sustainable community development.With such an inclusive area for study then, what kind of human resource development program can be put in place by higher education sectors in mountains, beyond research? The UNESCO Biosphere Reserves provide an...
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Honey Hunting: An Age-Old Tradition Meets Modern Threats

[caption id="attachment_3654" align="alignright" width="300"] Apis Laboriosa, the Himalayan giant honey bee, is the largest honeybee in the world. Photo: Niraj Karki.Wild honey from Apis Laboriosa, the Himalayan giant honey bee, has been gathered by Gurung people from cliffs in the Himalayan foothills of Nepal for centuries. Apis Laboriosa is the largest honeybee in the world, and is referred to as ‘Bheer-Mauri’ in Nepali, which directly translates into ‘cliff bee.’ It is crucial for pollinating wild flora and crops in the mountains. The Gurung people across many parts of Nepal, especially the Kaski and Lamjung Districts, value their tradition of honey hunting as part of their lifestyle, and collect honey twice a year during the spring and autumn. The honey they gather is prized due to both its medicinal properties and monetary worth.Every year, during the start of the spring or autumn season, the local Shaman (priest or the elder of the tribe) of...
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HICAP: Adaptation to climate change in the Himalayas

[caption id="attachment_3558" align="alignright" width="300"] HICAP – a transboundary, inter-disciplinary and multi-scale programmeAn infographic journey of the long road from science to policy impact - by Björn Alfthan (GRID-Arendal[1]), Nand Kishor Agrawal (ICIMOD[2]), Bob Van Oort[3] & Nina Bergan Holmelin (CICERO).The Himalayan Climate Change Adaptation Programme (HICAP) was born out of a need to address critical knowledge gaps on the impacts of climate change in the Himalayas and to better understand under what conditions mountain communities can best adapt to change. Its main aims, elaborated in 2011, were to: Reduce uncertainty through downscaling and customizing global climate change scenarios, and developing water availability and demand scenarios for parts of major river basins Develop knowledge and enhance capacities to assess, monitor, and communicate the impacts of and responses to climate change on natural and socio-economic environments at the local, national and regional levels Make concrete and actionable proposals for strategies and policies considering vulnerabilities,...
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Reflections on the Japanese and European Alps

[caption id="attachment_3487" align="alignright" width="300"] Mt. Hakusan (2,702 m), 45 km south-south-east of KanazawaI recently visited Japan as a guest of the Japan Society for the Promotion of Science, hosted by Kenichi Ueno (University of Tsukuba) who has posted some JALPS blogs. He has asked me to post some reflections on my visit. On first sight, the Japanese and European Alps have quite a few aspects in common. Both are relative hotspots of biodiversity, with many protected areas and biosphere reserves. In places, both tourism – including large ski areas – and hydroelectricity are well-developed. There is a long history of alpinism, often associated with scientific research. There are steep slopes, and significant infrastructure to minimise natural hazards. Forests occupy the greatest proportion of the landscape – and are expanding because of decreasing harvests and the abandonment of agricultural land. Challenges include, first, accessibility to remote valleys – but tunnels and high...
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Swidden agriculture and the sustainability of mountain agriculture

Among Southeast Asian countries, Laos might be thought "a forgotten country". The reason for this is that it has no major industry other than agriculture and forestry, and it is judged, using UN criteria, to be a developing country. Furthermore, it is the only landlocked country in Southeast Asia.More than 80% of the land of Laos is occupied by mountains with an altitude of about 500 to 2,000m. The Annamese Mountains separating Laos and Vietnam and the northern highlands in Laos at the easternmost end of the Alpine-Himalayan orogenic belt were formed by Mesozoic orogenic movement. In these mountain areas, ethnic minorities from the Mon-Khmer and Sino-Tibetan language groups are engaged in subsistence swidden agriculture (shifting cultivation). This is one of the rare regions of the world where traditional swidden agriculture is still being practiced.[caption id="attachment_3029" align="alignright" width="300"] Typical mountain landscape of swidden agriculture in mountainous regions of northern Laos.Swidden agriculture...
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Why do sika deer head to the alpine zone in Japan?

[caption id="attachment_2819" align="alignright" width="300"] Alpine meadow, Mount Kitadake 1980.The attractions of Japan’s Southern Alps include dense evergreen coniferous forests and alpine meadows full of blooming globeflowers (or Trollius japonicus). These areas have been likened to an earthly paradise. In recent years however, sika deer have moved into this alpine zone. With them grazing on the rare plant community there is a danger that these alpine meadows, a symbol of the rich mountain environment, will disappear.Meadows vanishA questionnaire survey conducted in 1984 found that there were virtually no sika deer breeding in the northern part of the Southern Alps. Then, in the 1990s the sika deer quietly began to use the evergreen coniferous forests of Veitch's silver fir and Maries fir in the subalpine zone, as well as the Erman's birch forests and herbaceous communities. By the early 2000s the sika deer had encroached further into the subalpine zone and settled there,...
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The cold does not bother her anyway

[caption id="attachment_2783" align="alignright" width="300"] Gunjan Silwal, 29, during a research expedition to Yala glacier.On her desk, Gunjan Silwal is engrossed in her computer, analyzing glacier mass balance data, working on figures and graphs which to the untrained eye look rather like scribblings on a toddler’s drawing book. To the trained eye, however, these are essential records of how much mass has been added or lost over the years on Yala glacier. The one she is working on is for the annual mass balance of the glacier from 2014 to 2015.When Gunjan is finally done with her analysis, she will begin to prepare for yet another field expedition to the glacier. Come April, Gunjan and her peers will head up to Yala glacier to collect spring data.Gunjan, 29, joined the International Centre for Integrated Mountain Development (ICIMOD)’s Cryosphere Initiative in 2016 as a research associate. She has spent a substantial amount of...
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Sustainable Tourism in the Daisetsuzan National Park

[caption id="attachment_2725" align="alignright" width="300"] Fig. 1: Mount Asahi-dake (2,291 m), the highest peak in DNP, in the foreground, and the Ohachi-daira caldera in the center (Photo: TW)Daisetsuzan National Park (DNP), located in central Hokkaido, a northernmost island of Japan, is Japan’s largest national park (226,764 hectares). Residents in the city of Sapporo with 2 million populations can access the park area in 2.5 to 3 hours by car, and can enjoy hiking/trekking and hot springs in the park’s volcanic landscape (Fig. 1). In spite of its close location to such a large city and in site of the large number of visitors, DNP is home to densely populated brown bears.New challenges are now emerging and addressed in DNP. Among them are offering learning opportunities to visitors and involving local stakeholders in the park management. However, most information is available only in Japanese, as most research publications (>2,800 in total) are written...
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Into the Hidden Valley: On a Quest for High Mountain Data

[caption id="attachment_2673" align="alignright" width="300"] Collecting snow samples to analyze black carbon deposition on Rikha Samba (Photo: Chytapten Sherpa/ Expedition team) I assume most glaciologists would have interesting stories to share about their work: the experience of studying glaciers, their research findings, and their line of work in general. But while we’re in the field, carrying on a conversation is last thing on our minds.  Most recently, I travelled to Rikha Samba for the annual 2016 autumn expedition along with two of my senior colleagues. Three other researchers from our national project partners: two from Kathmandu University, and one from the Department of Hydrology and Meteorology, the Government of Nepal were also with us. We set out in early October when the winter cold hadn’t yet set in. Our main objective was to monitor the glacier mass balance stake network, conduct a differential Global Positioning System (dGPS) survey of attitudinal and cross-sectional...
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Wild Nettle - a history and empowerment for women

[caption id="attachment_2632" align="alignright" width="300"] The Wild Nettle Plant grows about 6ft-7ft tall.Reminiscing a conversation with her grandmother, Kala Kumari, a Kulung woman said, “according to our grandmother the first plant we ate was nettle and during a time of which lasted for a year in the 70’s, we survived because of nettle.”Nettle plant grows throughout Nepal. The Kulung community values nettle both as plant and fabric. Nettle fabric also has a long tradition in the Kulung community. The skills of making nettle fabric have been passed on from women to women through generations. It also holds a spiritual significance with birth and death as the community uses the cloth made from nettle fabric to cover a new-born baby as well as a deceased body.[caption id="attachment_2633" align="alignleft" width="300"] Once the bark is removed, the Wild Nettle gets processed by boiling it for several hours to soften it.In the district of Sankhuwasabha, where...
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Two new research organizations in mountain studies have been established in Japan during the cherry blossom season

April might be the most important month in the Japanese year, not only because of the cherry blossom season but for starting a new semester. In April 2017, two new research organizations have been established regarding mountain studies in Japan - “Master degree program of mountain studies” and “Mountain Science Center (MSC)”. After a Japanese Alps inter-university Cooperation Project (JALPS) in 2010-2014, the scientists involved sought to establish an educational and research framework to coordinate and activate mountain studies in Japan.  After tremendous efforts for agreements among universities and negotiation with the ministry of education, science, culture, sports and technology, the two functions were finally approved by the University of Tsukuba.[caption id="attachment_2502" align="alignleft" width="300"] (Fig. 1) Kick-off symposium of MSC (March 21, 2017)The master degree program is composed of multiple science fields related to the mountain sciences through the collaboration of four national universities: the University of Tsukuba, Shinshu University, Shizuoka...
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Ecological Calendars and Climate Adaptation in the Pamirs

What are Ecological Calendars? [caption id="attachment_2436" align="alignleft" width="300"] Figure 1. ECCAP Logo, designed by Navajo Artist, Natani Notah, andKarim-Aly Kassam.Calendars enable us to anticipate future conditions and plan activities. Ecological calendars keep track of time by observing seasonal changes in our habitat (Fig. 1). The nascence of a flower, emergence of an insect, arrival of a migratory bird, breakup of ice, or last day of snow cover - each is a useful cue for livelihood activities, such as sowing crops, gathering plants, herding animals, hunting, fishing, or observing cultural festivals.[caption id="attachment_2435" align="alignright" width="300"] Figure 2. Gathering fodder in Guddara. Photo: Karim-Aly Kassam.Many human communities have developed unique and reliable systems to recognize and respond to climatic variability (Fig. 2). Over the course of multiple generations living in particular landscapes, people have accumulated knowledge of the relational timing of celestial, meteorological and ecological phenomena. Historically, these diverse ecological calendars enabled communities to...
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Naubise farmer finds relief in climate smart practices

[caption id="attachment_2301" align="alignleft" width="300"] Sita Neupane showcases her freshly harvested cucumbers grown without the use of chemical pesticides. (Ramdeo Sah/CEAPRED)Farmer Sita Neupane is the talk of the town this summer. Ms Neupane earned a whopping NPR 70,000, selling cucumbers from her vegetable patch that roughly spans 375 square metres. And, she did it all without using any chemical pesticides on her vegetable farm in Naubise, Mahadevstan-7 of Kavre Palanchowk District, Nepal. Ms Neupane attributes her success solely to Jholmal – a homemade bio-fertiliser and bio-pesticide.Naubise, like many other villages in Kavre, is known for a high incidence of pesticide use. As with many mountain farmers across the Hindu Kush Himalayan region, farmers here own small land parcels, rely heavily on chemical pesticides, and have limited knowledge about integrated pest management (IPM). A dry spell hit Kavre, last year. No rain fell in September, and the largely agricultural district suffered from high...
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