In an article published last month in the journal Ecosystem Services, MRI Principal Investigator Prof. Adrienne Grêt-Regamey and her co-author Bettina Weibel investigate the specific contribution of mountain areas to ecosystem services.

“Mountains are among the most sensitive social-ecological systems in the world, and they experience the impacts of climate change and economic globalization faster than many other social-ecological systems,” Grêt-Regamey explains. The goal of this research was therefore to “understand how these sentinels of global change provide insights into the effects of land use and population change on ecosystem services across the world.”

Alarming global trends

Grêt-Regamey and Weibel used high-resolution Earth observation datasets to compare mountain areas temporally (2000 vs. 2010). In doing so, they were able to confirm their hypothesis: that mountains are hotspots of ecosystem services provision. They also found alarming global trends. “Most mountain ranges show large patches of decreasing ecosystem services in areas characterized by high population pressure,” says Grêt-Regamey. For example, the loss of lower-elevation mountain forests adjacent to densely populated lowlands is resulting in reduced food and forage production. 

In the Global North, supply of food and forage exceeds demand, while demand for recreation exceeds supply. “It is the opposite in the Global South,” says Grêt-Regamey. “There, the expressed demand for water, food, and forage is exceeding the supply.” These results, Grêt-Regamey stresses, “highlight the need for action at global and local scales in terms of land use management.”

Ecosystem services assessments like this one can help balance conservation goals with economic, political, and social concerns.  

Read more: Grêt-Regamey, A., and Weibel, B. ‘Global Assessment of Mountain Ecosystem Services Using Earth Observation Data.’ Ecosystem Services (2020):


Cover image: graphical abstract of Grêt-Regamey and Weibel (2020).

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