Global News

With global warming decreasing the size of New Zealand’s alpine zone, a University of Otago study found out what this means for the altitude-loving kea.

The study, published in Molecular Ecology, analysed whole genome DNA data of the kea and, for the first time, its forest-adapted sister species, the kākā, to identify genomic differences which cause their habitat specialisations.

New research based on information from the European Space Agency’s CryoSat mission shows how much ice has been lost from mountain glaciers in the Gulf of Alaska and in High Mountain Asia since 2010.

As our climate warms, ice melting from glaciers around the world is one of main causes of sea-level rise. As well as being a major contributor to this worrying trend, the loss of glacier ice also poses a direct threat to hundreds of millions of people relying on glacier runoff for drinking water and irrigation.

One tends to think of mountain glaciers as slow moving, their gradual passage down a mountainside visible only through a long series of satellite imagery or years of time-lapse photography. However, new research shows that glacier flow can be much more dramatic, ranging from about 10 metres a day to speeds that are more like that of avalanches, with obvious potential dire consequences for those living below.

Glaciers are generally slow-flowing rivers of ice, under the force of gravity transporting snow that has turned to ice at the top of the mountain to locations lower down the valley – a gradual process of balancing their upper-region mass gain with their lower-elevation mass loss. This process usually takes many decades. Since this is influenced by the climate, scientists use changes in the rate of glacier flow as an indicator of climate change.

Research published this month in BMC Ecology and Evolution explores the link between the size of white dead-nettle flowers and pollinator size and, using population genetic analysis, suggests that large flower size evolved independently in populations on different mountains in Japan as a convergent adaptation to locally abundant large bumblebee species.

The morphological compatibility between flowers and insects was given in the famous textbook example of Darwin's orchids and hawkmoths. As in this example, many studies have shown that geographical variations in flower size match the size of insects in each region. In other words, studies have shown 'flower-sized regional adaptation' in which large flowers evolve in areas pollinated by large insects and small flowers evolve in areas pollinated by small insects.

The International Science Council invites comments on the Scientific and Technological Community Major Group position paper for the 2021 High-level Political Forum on Sustainable Development. We encourage the mountain research community to add a mountains perspective to this important document. Deadline 6 May 2021.

The International Science Council, together with the World Federation of Engineering Organizations (WFEO), leads the UN Major Group for Science and Technological Community (STC MG) for the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Its mandate is to promote science and to strengthen the scientific basis of decision-making and governance of sustainable development.

An international research team including scientists from ETH Zurich has shown that almost all the world’s glaciers are becoming thinner and losing mass’ and that these changes are picking up pace. The team’s analysis is the most comprehensive and accurate of its kind to date.

Glaciers are a sensitive indicator of climate change – and one that can be easily observed. Regardless of altitude or latitude, glaciers have been melting at a high rate since the mid-​20th century. Until now, however, the full extent of ice loss has only been partially measured and understood. Now an international research team led by ETH Zurich and the University of Toulouse has authored a comprehensive study on global glacier retreat, which was published online in Nature on 28 April. This is the first study to include all the world’s glaciers – around 220,000 in total – excluding the Greenland and Antarctic ice sheets. The study’s spatial and temporal resolution is unprecedented – and shows how rapidly glaciers have lost thickness and mass over the past two decades.

The Mountain Partnership calls for active participation in the process leading to the UN Food Systems Summit (UNFSS) 2021 in order to highlighting sustainable food systems in mountains. 

Mountain agriculture and food production sustain the livelihoods of 1.1 billion people living in the mountains and those of a much larger number of people in the lowlands that depend on healthy mountain ecosystems for freshwater and for the conservation of key plant and animal biological diversity. Worldwide, more than 80 percent of all food is produced by small-scale farmers. Small-scale farmers and pastoralists are predominant in mountain regions, where generally harsh weather and limiting topographical conditions prevail. Progress towards sustainable food systems cannot happen without improving the situation of small-scale mountain farmers worldwide.

The Andes Mountains of South America are the most species-rich biodiversity hotspot for plant and vertebrate species in the world. But the forest that climbs up this mountain range provides another important service to humanity.

Andean forests are helping to protect the planet by acting as a carbon sink, absorbing carbon dioxide and keeping some of this climate-altering gas out of circulation, according to new research published in Nature Communications.

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