Impact Stories from MRI-Funded Synthesis Workshops
MRI News
article written by MRI
30.04.24 | 02:04

Since 2012, the MRI has been a catalyst for impactful collaboration in the global change research community through its funding contributions to synthesis workshops.

MRI synthesis workshops are community-led activities that bring people together for collaboration, and generate outcomes and outputs that connect and synthesise existing data, information, publications, and/or other forms of knowledge that have the potential to provide new insights into the state of mountains in a global context, thereby supporting the MRI’s mission.

The MRI Coordination Office caught up with the organizers of previous synthesis workshops to learn about the lasting influence of these gatherings.

Cryosphere-groundwater Interactions: a Missing Link in Mountain Water Research

23 April 2023 | Vienna, Austria | Organizers: Marit van Tiel (ETH Zürich–VAW), Caroline Aubry-Wake (Utrecht University), Lauren Somers (Dalhousie University)

Aim: to bring together the mountain water and cryosphere research communities to explore cryosphere-groundwater interactions at various spatial and temporal scales.

Updates and Activities 

Recent updates include a publication (in review) in Nature Water “Cryosphere-groundwater connectivity is a missing link in the mountain water cycle” and insights shared in a European Geosciences Union (EGU) blog post about organizing workshops. Plans involve discussions for a model comparison study and potential collaboration with the International Association of Hydrological Sciences (IAHS) Droughts in Mountain Regions Working Group. 

Mapping mountain vegetation from above using very-high-resolution remote sensing: Challenges in global data access and image classification

17-23 July 2022 | Kochel am See, Bayern, Germany | Organizers: Nishtha Prakash, Johanna Toivonen de Gonzales, and Maaike Bader (Philipps University, Marburg, Germany).

Aim: The workshop will seek to address two specific challenges that the use of EO prospects face: the availability of and access to these data, and the analysis of the images in terms of recognising and delineating specific and diverse vegetation types. 

Updates and Activities

A new Alpine Treelines research network emerged from this MRI synthesis workshop. The workshop participants met again at the 2022 International Mountain Conference and the 2024 General Assembly of the European Geosciences Union (EGU). At EGU, their session was strongly linked to the topic of the workshop “Treeline ecotones under global change: linking spatial patterns to ecological processes” and included several presentations about very-high-resolution remote sensing. Looking ahead, the group is making plans for joint projects and working on joint manuscripts.

Building a regional network to study carbon dynamics in cushion peatlands along the Andes

10 – 14 October 2022 | Universidad Mayor de San Andrés, La Paz, Bolivia and Online | Organizers: Mary Carolina García Lino (University of Halle, Germany & Universidad Mayor de San Andrés, Bolivia), Alejandra Domic (Pennsylvania State University, USA), Isabell Hensen (University of Halle, Germany), and Arely N. Palabral Aguilera (Universidad Mayor de San Andrés, Bolivia).

Aim: to develop a standardized methodology to study the C dynamics of these peatlands in a globally relevant, comparable, and feasible way, whilst also engaging with social scientists and humanities experts and local practitioners to look at the broader social context in which conservation and management practices also play a role on these C dynamics.

Updates and Activities

The workshop leads recently shared their insights from this synthesis workshop through an MRI news story and blog post. A significant outcome of the workshop was the enhancement of the network of researchers dedicated to Andean peatlands, alongside the establishment of a new Working Group. Additionally, upcoming endeavors include the publication of a paper on the typology of high-elevation peatlands and an experiment focusing on the decomposition rate of the cushion plant species, Distichia muscoides, across high Andean peatlands in Colombia, Ecuador, Peru, Bolivia, and Argentina.

Renewable Energy Transitions: A Comparative Assessment of the Hindu Kush Himalaya, Andes, and Alps

7-9 April 2021 | Online | Organizers: Christopher Scott, Chi Huyen Truong  

Aim: To synthesize current understanding and address future challenges related to energy transitions in mountain regions with an emphasis on renewable energy in the context of climate change in the Hindu Kush Himalaya, Andes, and Alps.

Updates and Activities

This synthesis workshop has been instrumental in fostering networking and collaboration, leading to significant publications and events. Notable publications include studies on renewable electricity production in mountains, contributions to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) AR6 Cross-Chapter Paper on ‘Mountains’, and hydrology, water resources availability and management in the Andes hydrology in the Andes. The workshop also facilitated sessions at the 2022 International Mountain Conference on climate neutrality in mountains and water-energy-food security and the carbon challenge in the central Andes of Argentina. Ongoing discussions with institutions like Penn State University and the Himalayan University Consortium suggest promising future collaborations. Additionally, connections with the Water-Energy-Food Nexus Alliance have been established. Finally, a funding proposal titled ‘Tropical Glacier-fed Rivers: Cascading Eco-Socio-Hydrology and Governance Dynamics (TRILOGY)’ is currently under review by the U.S. National Science Foundation.

Transformative Adaptation to Climate Change in African Mountains

2020-2022 | Fieldwork and Case Studies| Organizers: Aida Cuni-Sanchez, Noelia Zafra Calvo, and Beth Kaplin

Aim: To synthesize climate change adaptation strategies used in African mountain systems as well as to identify barriers and enabling factors that affect transformative adaptation to climatic changes in African mountains. 

Updates and Activities

The workshop has resulted in key research publications covering a range of topics, including a publication (in review) on perceived climate change impacts and local adaptation responses in African mountains, local observations of climate change and adaptation responses in the mountain region of Burundi-Rwanda, the role of culture in climate change adaptation, and everyday adaptation practices by coffee farmers in three mountain regions in Africa. Additionally, this workshop has led to the creation of a network now part of the Mountain Sentinels NFR-funded project Mountain Science Operating with Society (MtnSOS) Network of Networks with an in-person meeting to be held in Nairobi, Kenya in 2025.

Transformative Change as a Response to Climate Change in Mountain Social-Ecological Systems

2-3 September 2019 | Organizers: Ignacio Palomo, Sandra Lavorel, and Bruno Locatelli 

Aim: To synthesize the information on climate change-related Nature Based Solutions (NBS) in mountains, and evaluate their potential to produce transformative change.

Updates and Activities

Following the workshop and its publication on assessing nature-based solutions for transformative change, which led to an invitation to the IUCN/GIZ-PANORAMA Advisory board, a subsequent publication on inclusive conservation in protected areas was released. Discussions during the workshop also led to the establishment of the MRI’s Mountain Social-Ecological Futures Working Group and initiated the funding of a research project by Swiss Re. Ongoing dialogues with MRI Co-Principal Investigator, Adrienne Grêt-Regamey in the Mountain Social-Ecological Futures Working Group further underscore the workshop’s lasting impact on collaborative research endeavors.

WEATHER: a scientific approach in Water sEcurity and climATe cHange adaptation in pEruvian glacieRs

16-17 August 2019 | Lima, Peru | Organizers: Jorge Abad Cueva, Pedro Rau Lavado, Duncan Quincey, and Wouter Buytaert

Aim: To provide input into the formulation of a national policy for glaciers and mountain ecosystems in Peru, in collaboration with INAIGEM and the Peruvian Ministry of Environment, and building further links between the private sector and academia.

Updates and Activities

The workshop paved the way for the Tropical Glaciers Symposium, emphasizing weather’s scientific role in addressing water security and climate change adaptation in Peruvian glaciers. Additionally, it resulted in the creation of the symposium’s book of abstracts.

Land Use/Cover Change in the Tropical Andes During the 21st Century: Patterns, Drivers, Future Scenarios, and Research Agenda

27-29 September 2017 | Quito, Ecuador | Organizer: Ricardo Grau

Aim: To explore patterns, future scenarios, and research agendas related to land cover and land use change in the Tropical Andes.

Updates and Activities

The workshop facilitated the publication of “Woody vegetation dynamics in the tropical and subtropical Andes from 2001 to 2014: satellite image interpretation and expert validation” in Global Change Biology. It was also instrumental to the establishment of the Andean Network of Socio-ecological Observatories (ROSA).

Qualities, Vulnerabilities, and Management of Ecosystem Services in Mountain Regions Worldwide

11-14 September 2012 | Emmental, Switzerland | Organizers: Adrienne Grêt-Regamey, Sandra Lavorel, and Ariane Walz

Updates and Activities

This synthesis workshop paved the way for notable publications like “On the Effects of Scale for Ecosystem Services Mapping” and “Characteristic trajectories of ecosystem services in mountains“. Furthermore, it secured funding for the Lead SNF project, MntPaths: Pathways for global change adaptation of mountain socio-ecological systems. Looking to the future, the workshop has set the stage for a new submission of a Biodiversa+ project, demonstrating its lasting impact on research and funding endeavours.

In conclusion, MRI Synthesis and Scoping Workshops have been instrumental in driving collaborative efforts, resulting in significant publications, impactful events, new funding opportunities, and promising avenues for future mountain research. The workshops have also encompassed a wide range of topics and mountain regions, engaging researchers from various backgrounds and disciplines, fostering inclusivity and enriching the diversity of perspectives.

Later in 2024, we will announce our next Synthesis and Scoping Workshop call. Follow MRI News for updates.

Cover image by Jonatan Pie.