MRI at the World Biodiversity Forum 2020
MRI News
article written by MRI
31.03.20 | 09:03

Last February, the in­au­gur­al World Bio­di­ver­si­ty Fo­rum (WBF) brought together more than 500 par­tic­i­pants, among them lead­ing re­searchers, ear­ly ca­reer re­searchers, prac­ti­tion­ers, rep­re­sen­ta­tives from dif­fer­ent sec­tors, de­ci­sion-mak­ers, and so­ci­etal ac­tors to discuss and ex­change on the kind of fu­ture they want for the world, its biodiversity, people, and environment.

WBF Congress panoramic

The conference was organized in Davos, the highest city of the Alps, and was timed to follow the World Economic Forum to make the case between nature and economy.  Mountains were well presented among the wide range of per­spec­tives and di­ver­si­ty of vi­sions in many sessions, among them three MRI-hosted sessions in the conference programme.

Mon 24 Feb. Session 126S: Selecting relevant essential variables for monitoring and understanding drivers and processes of change in mountain social-ecological systems

Session Co-Chairs: Carolina Adler (MRI) and Elisa Palazzi (ISAC-CNR) with GEO-GNOME collaborators Davnah Payne (GMBA) and Roger Sayre (USGS).

In this session, hosted by MRI for the  Group on Earth Observations (GEO) Global Network for Observations and Information in Mountain Environments (GEO-GNOME), we aimed at opening up a discussion on relevant Essential Mountain Variables needed in the monitoring of global change drivers and processes in mountain environments. This session was designed as an opportunity to engage in this discussion, as a continuation of workshops started by GEO-GNOME on the topic: a first one on Essential Climate Variables (ECVs) in June 2019, and a second one on Essential Biodiversity Variables in February 2020 (EBVs), with a third workshop planned to continue the conversation started in February on Essential Societal Variables (ESVs) planned for later in 2020-2021.

Five presentations were given on topics relevant for monitoring and reporting on processes of change observed in mountain environments. These included: 1) Background and Context for selecting relevant Essential Variables for monitoring Mountain Socio-Ecological Systems (Adler & Palazzi); 2) Traits As Essential Variables To Monitor Mountain Plants (Rixen); 3) Visualise the Invisible: Long-term Monitoring Of Biodiversity In Alpine Terrain (Körner et al.); 4) Biophysical Settings and Conservation Status of Global Mountains (Sayer et al.); and 5) Population And Population Changes In Mountain Ranges Of The World Between 1975-2015 (Ehrlich et al.).

The discussion pointed to key considerations relevant for EVs, such as scales and scope of monitoring for a number of diverse information needs and monitoring purposes, as well as the value of visualisation as a key tool for communicating trends and insights. The discussions also pointed to key variables and existing data sources that could be prioritised in capturing and monitoring these processes, which will be reported in more detail in subsequent workshop reports and publications under development.

Tue 25 Feb. Session 129S: The role of biodiversity and ecosystem services in adapting to global change

Session Co-Chairs: Adrienne Grêt-Regamey (ETHZ & MRI), Aino Kulonen (MRI), and Andreas Heinimann (CDE University of Bern & MRI)

WBF Adrienne
Adrienne Grêt-RegameyMountain ecosystems contribute critically to ecosystem services for people living inside and outside these areas. Their compressed topography, vertical gradients, and isolation make them particularly vulnerable to global change, calling for effective coping mechanisms. While there are many perspectives on what a desirable future should be, focusing on the pathways to adapt to global change helps highlight trade-offs between the ecosystem services provided at various sequenced decision points along the adaptation pathway. The session 129S “The role of biodiversity and ecosystem services in adapting to global change” was dedicated to diagnosing adaptation pathway challenges across mountain ecosystems and socio-ecological systems. The focus was on both challenges resulting from changes in the ecosystems along the pathways and opportunities emerging from learning and co-creating solutions along the pathways. Presentations showcased international practice-oriented examples, and ecological and socio-economic principles in enabling adaptation pathways were discussed.

Based on the case studies presented in this session, a synthesis publication identifying the characteristics of the ecosystems and ecosystem services that are essential to allow adaptation, as well as the main path dependencies in the socio-ecological systems limiting future adaptation options and the main trade-offs in biodiversity and ecosystem services along the pathways, is planned as an outcome of this session.

Wed 26 Feb. Session 101S: Understanding cultural, ecosystem, and environmental diversity across the world’s mountains to develop pathways towards a better future for mountain systems

Session Co-Chairs: Rob Marchant (University of York & MRI), Ricardo Grau (University of Tucumán & MRI), Julia Klein (Colorado State University), Aida Cuni-Sanchez (University of York) and Christine Schmitt (University of Bonn).

WBF Rob
Rob MarchantMountains provide an ideal natural laboratory to investigate the evolution of social-ecological systems, and to assess the current challenges and opportunities that this past evolution has created. The session 101S “Understanding cultural, ecosystem, and environmental diversity across the world’s mountains to develop pathways towards a better future for mountain systems” aimed at providing a synthesis on the current knowledge of the world’s mountain ecosystems, the services they deliver, and the threats and needed conservation interventions, and provide an understanding of the past evolution of the mountain social ecological system to showcase the value of the historical deeper time perspectives and finally assess and quantify the imbalance between threat and protection of the world’s mountains.

In his introduction talk, Rob Marchant, an MRI SLC member, explained how the long-term perspectives and understanding the past help to understand the drivers of the current change, providing examples from the studies in East-Africa. In her talk, Carolina Adler, the executive director of MRI shared the MRI visions and experience on assessing and aggregating knowledge across different mountain contexts, providing examples from the work MRI has done with the past and current IPCC processes.  “The session showcased some of the challenges mountains are facing, such as Swiss bird populations changing their distribution, or the degradation of ecosystem services. We also heard about the opportunities that mountains offer – such as the role of montane forest across Equatorial African mountains that are providing a global service of staring carbon and mitigating climate change”, says Rob Marchant.

WBF lunch

Davos Resolution

At the end of the con­fer­ence, par­tic­i­pants adopt­ed the so-called Davos  Res­o­lu­tion, a state­ment recog­nis­ing the ex­is­ten­tial and eco­nom­ic im­por­tance of bio­di­ver­si­ty and ecosys­tem func­tion as the ba­sis of hu­man ex­is­tence, and the im­por­tance of bio­di­ver­si­ty and ecosys­tems to achieve sus­tain­abil­i­ty, chart­ing the way for­ward to achieve a “New Deal for Na­ture”. The resolution directly feeds into the ongoing preparation of the Post-2020 Global Biodiversity Framework, with a request to “ensure that the targets balance the need for clarity and brevity with the need to recognize the complexity of nature and its contributions to people, and the need for a biodiversity monitoring system that integrates available remote sensing data with in-situ observations and predictive modelling”.

The resolution makes specific recommendations to the research community, such as to address the “need for highly interdisciplinary and transdisciplinary research as well as to value research contributions from all sources”. The resolution also highlights the need to “expand the capacity of biodiversity research to inclusion of indigenous values and rights knowledge”. Finally, the resolution encourages research actions “towards broadening the understanding of the diverse knowledge systems and values related to and about biodiversity, ecosystem processes, and their fundamental role for human systems”.

The Mountain Research Initiative fully supports the Davos resolution, and will work to support it by continuing to foster and connect relevant interdisciplinary and transdisciplinary research in the world’s mountains as social-ecological systems, and support efforts towards an integrated monitoring system that meets the specific needs of complex mountain systems.

“One of the future developments of the World Bio­di­ver­si­ty Fo­rum would be to capitalise on the timing of the event to make stronger connections between economic futures and the intrinsic links to biodiversity and natures contribution to the prosperity and well-being for all life on Earth”, says Rob Marchant.

We wish to thank all our collaborators, speakers, and the audience at these events for ensuring that mountain topics were addressed and discussed at this important meeting!

Download the Davos Resolution


About the WBF

The inaugural World Biodiversity Forum took place between 24-28 February 2020, and was organised by bioDISCOVERY, a Global Research Project (GRP) of FutureEarth, fostering collaborative interdisciplinary activities on biodiversity and ecosystem science, the University of Zurich and its Research Priority Programme on “Global Change and Biodiversity”.


 Cover photo by Pixabay user kristinadobo