Why Mountains Matter

27% of the Earth’s land


 Over half humanity’s

fresh water

25% of all terrestrial


Home to almost

1 billion people

20% of global


23% of the world’s


Directly or indirectly, mountains play an important role in most of our lives. Covering over a quarter of the planet’s land surface, mountains are home to 12 percent of the world’s population, and the enormous range of ecosystem services they provide are vital to human well-being. Over half of humanity’s freshwater, for example, originates in the world’s mountains.

Unfortunately, mountains are also particularly vulnerable to the impacts of climate and other global change – with significant implications for human health, safety, and security. If we are to preserve these unique environments and continue to benefit from the resources they offer, sustainable mountain development is essential.

However, mountains are complex social-ecological systems that span biological, social, and physical processes. Therefore, in order to identify appropriate pathways towards sustainable development, an interdisciplinary approach to global change research in mountains is needed.

The role of the Mountain Research Initiative is to support this process, making connections for our changing mountains.


Price, M.  F. et al.  (2013) Mountain Geography: Physical and Human Dimensions. University of California Press.

FAO (2014) Mountains and the Sustainable Development Goals. FAO Policy Brief 8 Jan 2014.