Mountains aren't just a sight to behold—they cover 22 percent of the planet's land surface and provide habitat for plants, animals and about 1 billion human beings. The vital landforms also supply critical resources such as fresh water, food and even renewable energy.
Wind turbines atop a mountainPixabay
Unfortunately, mountains are under threat from the impacts of climate change, land degradation, over exploitation and natural disasters, the United Nations warns. What's more, the UN admits that mountains are "often forgotten" in its own 2030 sustainable development goals.
That's why the theme of 2018's International Mountain Day is #MountainsMatter. The aim of this year's occasion is to "create a large social movement that can bring mountain issues on the tables of politicians," the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations said.
Denali's Hidden Creek Glacier has noticeably retreated from 1916 (top) to 2004 (bottom) due to climate change.Top: S.R. Capps, USGS. Bottom: NPS Photo
Here are seven reasons why mountains matter, according to the FAO:
1. Mountains Matter for Water as mountains are the world's "water towers," providing between 60 and 80 percent of all freshwater resources for our planet. However, all available records indicate that glaciers in mountain ranges around the world are retreating and disappearing due to climate change. At least 600 glaciers have disappeared completely over the past decades, affecting water supplies relied on by billions living downstream.
2. Mountains Matters for Disaster Risk Reduction as climatic variations are triggering disasters. Avalanches, mudflows and landslides are tumbling downstream, stripping bare forests, flooding communities and populations.
3. Mountains Matter for Tourism as mountain destinations attract around 15-20 percent of global tourism and are areas of important cultural diversity, knowledge and heritage. Although mountain tourism has the potential to foster economic development in remote and isolated regions, many mountain communities are still not benefiting and live in poverty.
4. Mountains Matter for Food as they are important centers of agricultural biodiversity and are home to many of the foods that come to our table, such as rice, potatoes, quinoa, tomatoes and barley. Yet they are home to some of the hungriest peoples in the world with a high vulnerability to food shortages and malnutrition, and climate change is affecting mountain agriculture.
5. Mountains Matter for Youth as despite the beautiful landscapes, life in the mountains can be tough, particularly for rural youth. Abandoning their villages in search of employment elsewhere has led to an absence of young people and an increasing labor shortage. Migration from mountains leads to an increase in abandoned agricultural land, degradation and often forest fires. At the community level, cultural values and ancient traditions are lost.
6. Mountains Matter for Indigenous Peoples as many mountain areas host ancient indigenous communities that possess and maintain precious knowledge, traditions and languages. Mountain peoples have developed remarkable land use systems and have a wealth of knowledge and strategies accumulated over generations on how to adapt to climate variability.
7. Mountains Matter for Biodiversity as half of the world's biodiversity hotspots are concentrated in mountains and mountains support approximately one-quarter of terrestrial biological diversity. Mountains are home to rare animals such as gorillas, snow leopards and the majestic tahr as well as strikingly beautiful plants such as orchids and lobelias.
If you'd like to join the conversation, use the hashtag #MountainsMatter on social media to share why mountains are important to you.
5 reasons why mountains matter www.youtube.com
- Redwoods are the world's tallest trees.
- Now scientists have discovered they are even bigger than we thought.
- Using laser technology they map the 80-meter giants.
- Trees are a key plank in the fight against climate change.
They are among the largest trees in the world, descendants of forests where dinosaurs roamed.
Pixabay / Simi Luft<p><span>Until recently, measuring these trees meant scaling their 80 meter high trunks with a tape measure. Now, a team of scientists from University College London and the University of Maryland uses advanced laser scanning, to create 3D maps and calculate the total mass.</span></p><p>The results are striking: suggesting the trees <a href="https://www.nature.com/articles/s41598-020-73733-6" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">may be as much as 30% larger than earlier measurements suggested.</a> Part of that could be due to the additional trunks the Redwoods can grow as they age, <a href="https://www.nature.com/articles/s41598-020-73733-6" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">a process known as reiteration</a>.</p>
New 3D measurements of large redwood trees for biomass and structure. Nature / UCL<p>Measuring the trees more accurately is important because carbon capture will probably play a key role in the battle against climate change. Forest <a href="https://www.wri.org/blog/2020/09/carbon-sequestration-natural-forest-regrowth" target="_blank">growth could absorb billions of tons</a> of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere each year.</p><p>"The importance of big trees is widely-recognised in terms of carbon storage, demographics and impact on their surrounding ecosystems," the authors wrote<a href="https://www.nature.com/articles/s41598-020-73733-6" target="_blank"> in the journal Nature</a>. "Unfortunately the importance of big trees is in direct proportion to the difficulty of measuring them."</p><p>Redwoods are so long lived because of their ability to <a href="https://www.nature.com/articles/s41598-020-73733-6" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">cope with climate change, resist disease and even survive fire damage</a>, the scientists say. Almost a fifth of their volume may be bark, which helps protect them.</p>
Carbon Capture Champions<p><span>Earlier research by scientists at Humboldt University and the University of Washington found that </span><a href="https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0378112716302584" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Redwood forests store almost 2,600 tonnes of carbon per hectare</a><span>, their bark alone containing more carbon than any other neighboring species.</span></p><p>While the importance of trees in fighting climate change is widely accepted, not all species enjoy the same protection as California's coastal Redwoods. In 2019 the world lost the equivalent of <a href="https://www.worldwildlife.org/threats/deforestation-and-forest-degradation" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">30 soccer fields of forest cover every minute</a>, due to agricultural expansion, logging and fires, according to The Worldwide Fund for Nature (WWF).</p>
Pixabay<p>Although <a href="https://c402277.ssl.cf1.rackcdn.com/publications/1420/files/original/Deforestation_fronts_-_drivers_and_responses_in_a_changing_world_-_full_report_%281%29.pdf?1610810475" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">the rate of loss is reported to have slowed in recent years</a>, reforesting the world to help stem climate change is a massive task.</p><p><span>That's why the World Economic Forum launched the Trillion Trees Challenge (</span><a href="https://www.1t.org/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">1t.org</a><span>) and is engaging organizations and individuals across the globe through its </span><a href="https://uplink.weforum.org/uplink/s/uplink-issue/a002o00000vOf09AAC/trillion-trees" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Uplink innovation crowdsourcing platform</a><span> to support the project.</span></p><p>That's backed up by research led by ETH Zurich/Crowther Lab showing there's potential to restore tree coverage across 2.2 billion acres of degraded land.</p><p>"Forests are critical to the health of the planet," according to <a href="https://www.1t.org/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">1t.org</a>. "They sequester carbon, regulate global temperatures and freshwater flows, recharge groundwater, anchor fertile soil and act as flood barriers."</p><p><em data-redactor-tag="em" data-verified="redactor">Reposted with permission from the </em><span><em data-redactor-tag="em" data-verified="redactor"><a href="https://www.weforum.org/agenda/2021/03/redwoods-store-more-co2-and-are-more-enormous-than-we-thought/" target="_blank">World Economic Forum</a>.</em></span></p>
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