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Mountains of the world: vulnerable water towers for the 21st century


Messerli, Bruno; Viviroli, Daniel; Weingartner, Rolf (2004). Mountains of the world: vulnerable water towers for the 21st century. Ambio, 13:29-34.

Abstract

Mountains as "Water Towers" play an important role for the surrounding lowlands. This is particularly true of the world's semiarid and arid zones, where the contributions of mountains to total discharge are 50-90%. Taking into account the increasing water scarcity in these regions, especially for irrigation and food production, then today's state of knowledge in mountain hydrology makes sustainable water management and an assessment of vulnerability quite difficult. Following the IPCC report, the zone of maximum temperature increase ina 2 x C02 state extends from low elevation in the arctic and sub-arctic to high elevation in the tropics and subtropics. The planned GCOS climate stations do not reach this elevation of high temperature change, although there are many high mountain peaks with the necessary sensitive and vulnerable ecosystems. Worldwide, more than 700 million people live in mountain areas, of these, 625 million are in developing countries. Probably more than half of these 625 million people are vulnerable to food insecurity. Consequences of this insecurity can be emigration or overuse of mountain ecosystems. Overuse of the ecosystems will, ultimately, have negative effects on the environment and especially on water resources. New research initiatives and new high mountain observatories are needed in order to understand the ongoing natural and human processes and their impacts on the adjacent lowlands.

Abstract

Mountains as "Water Towers" play an important role for the surrounding lowlands. This is particularly true of the world's semiarid and arid zones, where the contributions of mountains to total discharge are 50-90%. Taking into account the increasing water scarcity in these regions, especially for irrigation and food production, then today's state of knowledge in mountain hydrology makes sustainable water management and an assessment of vulnerability quite difficult. Following the IPCC report, the zone of maximum temperature increase ina 2 x C02 state extends from low elevation in the arctic and sub-arctic to high elevation in the tropics and subtropics. The planned GCOS climate stations do not reach this elevation of high temperature change, although there are many high mountain peaks with the necessary sensitive and vulnerable ecosystems. Worldwide, more than 700 million people live in mountain areas, of these, 625 million are in developing countries. Probably more than half of these 625 million people are vulnerable to food insecurity. Consequences of this insecurity can be emigration or overuse of mountain ecosystems. Overuse of the ecosystems will, ultimately, have negative effects on the environment and especially on water resources. New research initiatives and new high mountain observatories are needed in order to understand the ongoing natural and human processes and their impacts on the adjacent lowlands.

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Additional indexing

Item Type:Journal Article, refereed, original work
Communities & Collections:07 Faculty of Science > Institute of Geography
Dewey Decimal Classification:910 Geography & travel
Language:English
Date:2004
Deposited On:29 Apr 2015 14:33
Last Modified:05 Apr 2016 19:14
Publisher:Springer
ISSN:0044-7447
Additional Information:AMBIO Special Report
Free access at:Official URL. An embargo period may apply.
Official URL:http://www.jstor.org/stable/25094585

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