Mountain ecosystem services and climate change: A global overview of potential threats and strategies for adaptation

Research output: Book/ReportCommissioned report


Mountains provide vital resources to a significant
proportion of the global population, particularly as the
‘water towers’ of the world, and as a result of their high
biological diversity at genetic, species and ecosystem
levels. As well as benefiting people and industries in
lowland areas, these ecosystem services (ES) form the
basis of most mountain livelihoods. However, despite
providing such an unprecedented abundance of ES,
mountains remain among the poorest documented
ecosystems in this regard. Greater use of the ES
framework can help provide a large-scale view of the
unique ‘multifunctionality’ of mountains.
Given the immense threats to mountain systems
posed by climate change, sensitive management
of ecosystems can help promote climate change
adaptation, and an emerging approach has been
explored in a number of mountain areas, in the form
of ecosystem-based adaptation. Inherent in this
approach is the sustainable use of biodiversity and
other ES as a means to foster the adaptive capacity
of mountain socio-ecological systems in response to
anticipated climate change.

This paper presents a review of potential climate
change and anthropogenic pressures on mountain
ES, particularly focusing on water resources
scarcity and increasing water demand due to rapid
increases of population and utilisation of mountain
ES. Adaptation strategies and supporting policy
recommendations are also presented. An overview is
presented on a global basis, but analysis also focuses
on how mountain ES may be differentially affected
due to key regional specificities in major mountain
systems of the world. Existing policy and international
frameworks of relevance to climate adaptation are
examined in detail. Based on this, recommendations
are presented on future policy directions, to support
adaptation measures explicit to mountain ES using an
ecosystem-based approach.
Original languageEnglish
Place of PublicationParis
Commissioning bodyUnited Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation
Number of pages32
ISBN (Print)9789231002250
Publication statusPublished - Oct 2017


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