Keynote Presentations from the 2nd AVEC International Summer School, Peyresq, 18-30 September 2005

Speaker: Harald Bugmann
Mountain Forest Ecology, Department of Environmental Sciences, ETH-Zentrum HG G 21.3 Rämistr. 101, CH-8092 Zürich, Switzerland

Title of the talk: Mountain ecosystem goods and services (pdf: 4MB)

Summary of the talk by Britta Tietjen and Nikolaos Fyllas: Students´ summary (pdf)


Mountain ecosystem goods and services

(1) Mountain regions and their ecosystems fulfil a multitude of functions, from freshwater provision and carbon storage to aesthetic beauty. In the first part of the presentation, an overview of the global significance of mountain regions will be given, and possible consequences of global changes on mountain ecosystems will be outlined in a qualitative manner.

(2) The fate of the vegetation cover of mountain regions under a changing climate, changing land use and changing atmopsheric composition is important for the capability of ecosystems in mountain regions to provide many of the goods and services that humanity depends on. In mountain ecosystems, several factors are of crucial importance that may be nearly negligible elsewhere, such as slope stabilization by root systems. These factors are often interlinked, making the integrity of mountain systems dependent on the integrity of their weakest element. Projecting the impacts of climate change on mountain ecosystems requires us to use mathematical models, and to consider a range of ecological and hydrological processes simultaneously, but the latter has not often been done in the past. For example, population ecologists examined the impacts on forest structure and composition; biogeochemists investigated possible changes in carbon, water and nitrogen exchange between forests and the atmosphere; landscape ecologists looked at the impacts of a changing disturbance regime on vegetation patterns at large scales; and hydrologists examined changes in streamflow and related variables. Studies such as these will be reviewed in the second part of the presentation; they are certainly welcome and timely because they highlight the potential for climate-induced changes in ecosystem goods and services in mountains. Most of these studies were conducted as purely scientific endeavors, with little involvment of possible “end users” (stakeholders), and only few studies exist that tried to address the intertwined nature of processes in mountain regions.

(3) The approach of the ATEAM mountain project will be introduced next. It focuses on four ecosystem services, i.e. carbon storage (with a focus on forests), freshwater generation (as a landscape process), slope stability, and tourism.

(4) The mountain stakeholder dialogue (approach, history, and results obtained so far) will be introduced, because it must be made clear that the activities that are discussed later on were framed to a certain extent by the stakeholder dialogue.

(5) To address the linkages between ecological processes (such as biogeochemical cycling), an existing model (RHESSys) was adapted for the conditions of Europe. The model structure will be introduced briefly, and results from the model evaluation studies will be presented. This model can be used to assess changes in carbon storage and freshwater provision at the catchment scale. Our approach to address tourism and slope stability will also be presented, but more briefly (particularly for slope stability, where we still have little to report).

(6) Sample sensitivity studies with the RHESSys model will be presented (simulations for the “real” ATEAM scenarios will take place only later this year), and I will discuss the question of the adaptive capacity of the various stakeholders with respect to such changes.

(7) Finally, the issue of how to derive vulnerability from these results (sensitivity studies and estimates of adaptive capacity by sector) will be discussed.

Recommended background literature on this presentation:

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