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  • Writer's pictureDirk

Mountains - a fragile source of life EP2

Mountains have these beautiful reliefs, rapid ecological changes along an altitudinal gradient providing living space to numerous species, but are restricted by their mountain tops. They are high rising islands in a sea of lowlands.

However, mountains are very fragile environments and are among the regions that are most sensitive to climate change and to the impacts of human activities.


Climate change is a worldwide threat, but its impact on mountains is particularly strong and troubling. High elevation areas tend to experience intensified climate-change induced warming and weather extremes. As with high latitudes (our poles), where ice-melt is way more rapid than predicted, the rate of warming is also amplified with elevation. That means that high mountains are experiencing more rapid changes in temperature and much higher variations in daily temperatures as compared to lowland regions. Glaciers are melting more and more quickly, snow cover is reduced and highly variable between years. Further, heavy rain events, creating torrents and floods, and periods of no rain, drying out mountain landscapes, have been observed to be more and more common frequent. All this has important implications for nature, for wildlife and for us.

High-altitude areas around the world share many characteristic and common features. All of them have in common that, while being considered an extreme environment with short vegetation times, they harbor an important amount of different species, adapted to such a harsh environment. These species form unique communities and unique ecosystems, and especially alpine lakes are a source of life. They are the basis of the functioning of ecosystem, processes such as nutrient cycling, CO2 sequestration, digestion of dead organic matter and many more. Climate change puts enormous stress on those species, leading to deep changes in those biological communities due to changes in abundance of species, loss of species, and range changes of species. Interactions between the species, interactions between species and the environment drive the functioning of ecosystems.

The changes we see due to climate change will also profoundly alter ecosystem functioning, and e.g. clean drinking water may become a rare good in the future. Mountains are sentinels of change. Changes in the mountains will lead to the loss of essential ecosystem services, which poses risks for the well-being of all of us. Mountains, despite their might, are fragile environments, suffering from human-induced changes. We need to treat mountains with respect to save our future.

This is the second episode of my mountain series called “Mountains - sentinels of change”.

I would like to encourage everyone to leave comments here or on youtube about the film. The more this is a success the more videos I will be able to produce!

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