An MRI-led special issue of the journal Regional Environmental Change seeks to highlight contributions from the mountain research community to the IPCC’s Sixth Assessment cycle, focusing on the impacts of climate change on the high-mountain cryosphere and downstream regions – as well as responses to these impacts.

The IPCC’s Sixth Assessment cycle presented the mountain research community with an opportunity to address knowledge gaps on climate change impacts in the high-mountain cryosphere – further motivating activity in an area that has increasingly been a focus of research in recent years. 

With this in mind, an MRI-led special issue of Regional Environmental Change seeks to compile, interrelate, and highlight cases and studies as contributions that the mountain research community can make to the IPCC's Sixth Assessment process, and to also help address key knowledge needs that respond to pressing societal issues. Furthermore, it aims to call upon cases that address the relevant aspects, conditions, and mechanisms that enable effective adaptation responses to climate change. This is of particular importance given that an evidentiary basis is needed to identify those ‘fit-for-purpose’ actions that are congruent with the mountain context, the needs of people affected, and the scale of the problem.

Research towards sustainable mountain development

Papers published in the Regional Environmental Change special issue on  ‘Climate Change in the Mountain Cryosphere: Impacts and Responses’ explore the observed and projected impacts of climate change, adaptation experiences and strategies, and policy responses to risks associated with changes in the mountain cryosphere. In doing so, they demonstrate that encouraging advances have been made in terms of how issues pertaining to climate-related changes in the cryosphere are framed and investigated in the mountain context.

“Considerable and commendable attention is given to combining multiple lines of evidence [on which] to base conclusions, and the need for integrating these within frameworks that consider both the biophysical and socio-economic factors and key interactions in mountains as social-ecological systems,” write special issue editors Carolina Adler, Christian Huggel, Ben Orlove, and Anne Nolin in their editorial. 

However, the editors also highlight several areas in which further research is needed, particularly with regards to complex human dimensions that could impact adaptation responses in future – such as the influence of politics and differentiated power relations on societal responses to cryosphere change in key climate policy realms.

“From a mountain research perspective, and through the experiences that some of us observe as lead authors in IPCC AR6, we also call for greater emphasis on reviews and syntheses of evidence that address the relevant aspects, conditions, and mechanisms that could inform and support adaptation actions and facilitate an effective reduction of net losses of what is valued.” 

Given the diverse nature of mountain social-ecological systems around the world, the special issue editors also call for greater research attention to be given to the systematic inter-comparability of cases and the transferability of evidence, beyond generalizability. In doing so, they hope researchers working across disciplines can build a better understanding of how these diverse systems function, and help to identify suitable pathways towards sustainable mountain development.

“The enormous challenges that mountain regions face towards sustainable development constraints of climate and cryosphere change, and social and economic change, require a similarly large effort by the mountain research community and the networks that support it.”

The special issue is now available online. 

The editors would like to take this opportunity to thank all those who contributed to this special issue of Regional Environmental Change. 

Special Issue Contents:

Climate change in the mountain cryosphere: Impacts and responses
Adler, C., Huggel, C., Orlove, B., and Nolin, A. 

Changes in the mountain glaciers of continental Russia during the twentieth to twenty-first centuries 
Khromova, T., Nosenko, G., Nikitin, S. et al.

Runoff from glacier ice and seasonal snow in High Asia: separating melt water sources in river flow
Armstrong, R.L., Rittger, K., Brodzik, M.J. et al.

Rock glaciers as a water resource in a changing climate in the semiarid Chilean Andes
Schaffer, N., MacDonell, S., Réveillet, M. et al.

Recent evolution of damage to infrastructure on permafrost in the French Alps
Duvillard, PA., Ravanel, L., Marcer, M. et al.

Framing climate change in frontline communities: anthropological insights on how mountain dwellers in the USA, Peru, and Italy adapt to glacier retreat
Orlove, B., Milch, K., Zaval, L. et al.

Contributions of the cryosphere to mountain communities in the Hindu Kush Himalaya: a review
Mukherji, A., Sinisalo, A., Nüsser, M. et al.

Socio-hydrology of “artificial glaciers” in Ladakh, India: assessing adaptive strategies in a changing cryosphere
Nüsser, M., Dame, J., Kraus, B. et al.

Climate change and adaptation of mountain societies in Central Asia: uncertainties, knowledge gaps, and data constraints
Xenarios, S., Gafurov, A., Schmidt-Vogt, D. et al.

Socio-ecological dimensions of Andean pastoral landscape change: bridging traditional ecological knowledge and satellite image analysis in Sajama National Park, Bolivia
Yager, K., Valdivia, C., Slayback, D. et al.

Rewriting conservation landscapes: protected areas and glacial retreat in the high Andes
Rasmussen, M.B.

Loss and damage in the mountain cryosphere
Huggel, C., Muccione, V., Carey, M. et al.

CITATION: Adler, C., Huggel, C., Orlove, B. et al. 'Climate Change in the Mountain Cryosphere: Impacts and Responses' [Special Issue] Regional Environmental Change (2019) 19. 5.

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