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Climate change is transforming mountains – we must act to save them

Climate change is transforming mountains – we must act to save them

Mountain ecosystems provide vital services to human life. Mountains sequester CO2They regulate floods, provide clean water and air. They are vital for the survival of millions of people around the world. more than half of human society.

Mountain areas are particularly vulnerable to climate change. The high relief of the mountains creates many microclimates, ecosystems, and thus living spaces for many species. Quite a few of these species are available. only be found in mountains.

The warming of high-altitude mountain regions is projected to be faster than that of lowland ones. Warming of the Pyrenees along the border of France & Spain is projected for 0.57°C per decade has already been observed, while the rate is only 0.18°C in lowland France.

It is difficult for anyone to predict the temperature rises in mountains. However, for the Pyrenees the average annual temperature has been calculated to be 2°C warmer than 1970, compared to 1.2°C in lowland France. This difference will only grow in the future.




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Mountains, a fragile source of life


Increased temperatures in mountain regions decrease the amount of snow that falls, causes snow and ice to melt earlier and accelerates deglaciation – the process by which glaciers retreat.

Temperature increases can also accelerate biochemical reactions like photosynthesis in plants and increase the rates for many biological and ecological processes, such as decomposition, sedimentation, and so on. organic carbon mineralisation, organismic growth (such the time between egg hatching to metamorphisis in the frogs), as well as biomass production (for example the regrowth or grazed fields).

How climate change affects mountaineers

Thus, it is possible to predict that major ecological changes will occur as a result of the temperature increases already occurring, which are destabilising mountain ecosystems.

European mountains like the Pyrenees may not be as remote and idyllic as we think. Many of them are the result of centuries-long human activities. Despite the fact that mining activities have largely stopped, the Pyrenees still suffer from heavy metal pollution due to increased flooding caused by climate change. releasing stored heavy metals from peatbogs and peatlands.

At the same time, toxic organic pollutants are carried from lowlands to sensitive mountain ecosystems by atmospheric transport – the process of evaporation, cloud formation, wind and precipitation – but also via local activities such as the use of insect repellents by farmers and tourists.

In contrast, mountain lakes are home to introduced fish species. high levels of mercury, which is well-known for its adverse effects on the nervous systems of both animals and humans.

Mountaineers are being affected by climate change

The introduction of fish into mountain lakes can also lead to a process called eutrophication – where water systems are flooded with too many nutrients. This, along with higher temperatures, causes algae bloom to increase in numbers and lowers the oxygen level in waterways. These algae also produce poisons, known as cyanotoxins, in high enough amounts. cause illness in animals and humans.

The effects of climate change on mountain ecosystems will have a significant impact on the water supply and quality. Water quality has already decreasedBecause it is difficult for water samples to detect all the toxic molecules, the actual level of toxins in the water supply remains a mystery.

Transformative change

As human health is inextricably linkedTo ensure animal and environmental health, it’s important to know that the Pyrenees as well as other mountain ranges aren’t as healthy as we think.

They may no longer be able provide us with the clean water, clean air, and other ecosystem services that we require in the future.

We need a new way to treat mountain ecosystems. That’s why many, including the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform for Biodiversity and Ecosystem ServicesThese are the reasons for you to get involved. “transformative change”.

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This new buzzword replaces the term “sustainable development” of previous years. Transformative change goes much further than sustainable development – because we waited too long to take small steps toward a sustainable future, we now need to make much bigger strides.

These strides are very likely to affect many of us – we will need to drastically reduce our mobility, change our food habits (by reducing or entirely cutting out meat from our diets), and give up many of the commodities of modern life.

Transformative change in Pyrenees might include limiting access to sensitive sites for tourists or farmers, reducing the herd size of sheep and cows, as well as ending the use of human and veterinary insect repellents in mountains.

Transformative change must have an impact on every aspect of our lives if it is to have an effect. Our society must adapt to save mountains, and the essential services they provide.


AXA Research Fund was created in 2007 to share and accelerate scientific knowledge on key issues. Since then, it has supported almost 650 projects across the globe by researchers from 55 different countries. Visit the website of the AXA Research Fund to learn more. Axa Research FundFollow Twitter @AXAResearchFund.




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