Nature’s Contributions to People in Mountains: A Review
New Publication
article written by MRI
28.08.19 | 09:08

Due to climate change, as well as the impact of other anthropogenic factors, mountainous ecosystem services are changing rapidly, with consequences for nature’s contribution to people (NCP). A recently published paper reviews the state of research published on ecosystem services in mountain areas, focusing specifically on NCP.

Nature’s contribution to people’s quality of life is undisputable. Mountains and the resources they provide play an important role for people living in them, as well as for people living downstream. However, climate change and other anthropogenic factors are impacting mountain ecosystem services, with consequences for nature’s contribution to people (NCP). A new study published in the journal PLOS ONE uses the conceptual framework of the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES) and the notion of NCP to determine to what extent previous research on ecosystem services in mountains has explored the different components of the IPBES conceptual framework.

Mountain ecosystems can have an impact on various aspects of the life quality of people living, working, or depending on mountains. From being the water source for over half the world’s population, hosting rich levels of biodiversity, and regulating natural hazards, to having a spiritual value, producing material benefits, and being a recreation area, mountain areas – and the papers discussing them – present a vastly interdisciplinary field through which to navigate for the authors of this review. The ambitious project, which included the analysis of a total of 580 papers published between 1997-2016, is co-authored by MRI Co-PI Adrienne Grêt-Regamey, and identifies key research gaps which should be addressed in future.

The review determined that research has gradually increased and become more interdisciplinary, with a more substantial number of NCP, dimensions of quality of life, and indirect drivers of change included as research topics. However, the authors found that research focusing on biodiversity, regulating NCP, and direct drivers decreased over time. Additionally, their findings show that despite the fact that research on NCP in mountains is becoming more policy-oriented, mainly in relation to payments for ecosystem services, institutional responses remain underexplored throughout the reviewed studies.

The interlinkage between biodiversity and NCP, as well as the interlinkage between NCP and people’s quality of life, is a very significant research gap, as is the effect of indirect drivers of change on direct drivers and on NCP. Furthermore, particular aspects of the IPBES components – specifically functional diversity, non-material NCP, the wellbeing dimensions of social relationships, health, and freedom of choice, and the effect of demographic and cultural changes on NCP – appear to be topics which up to today have been mainly neglected and could provide significant insights. Lastly there seems to be a geographical gap concerning areas such as the Andes, the south draining parts of the Himalayas, Central Asian mountain ranges, the Ural Mountains and the Armenian as well as the Anatolian Plateaus.


Martín-López B, Leister I, Lorenzo Cruz P, Palomo I, Grêt-Regamey A, Harrison PA, et al. (2019) ‘Nature’s contributions to people in mountains: A review.’ PLOS ONE 14(6): e0217847.