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Impacts on water quality and quantity are among the most contentious aspects of mining projects. Companies insist that the use of modern technologies will ensure environmentally friendly mining practices. However, evidence of the negative environmental impacts of past mining activity causes local and downstream populations to worry that new mining activities will adversely affect their water supply. We report on one mine site in Peru where water has become a particularly conflictive issue. We then provide a detailed proposal for a monitoring plan to recover trust among stakeholders. A well-designed and executed monitoring plan for water quantity and quality is critical to foster dialogue, consensus, trust, and transparency between mine and community.
High elevation páramo (wetland) ecosystems in the Andes are important water sources for local communities and downstream agricultural and urban users. These headwater catchments, however, are often impacted by human activities (eg agricultural production) that affect both stream water quality and flow. Knowledge about water availability, quality, and use is essential for effective management but is often lacking, particularly in smaller mountain communities. Studies of natural resources in mountains, conducted jointly with local actors and with the participation of youth, are a way for rural communities to learn about their resources, appropriate this knowledge, and improve their quality of life. Research projects that involve youth in remote rural zones, where education is not of the same quality as in urban centers, represent an important opportunity for youth to acquire skills and relevant knowledge for their personal development and for participation in development processes. The present article presents a process and the results of a project that studied water resources in Bolivia and Colombia with local youth and water users. The research themes in the 2 countries were different, responding to the concerns of their respective communities, but the results had a similar major impact on the lives of young researchers, on the communities' perception of the state of their natural resources—in particular water—and on the role of knowledge in generating creative options for improving resource management and the quality of life in mountain communities.
Pesticides are increasingly used in Pakistan, including in remote Northern areas in the country, for several reasons. A study in Swat Valley investigated the use of pesticides and associated problems, and identified possible remedial measures of an indigenous nature. Soil samples were analyzed and a detailed survey was done in 12 villages, based on interviews with 216 farmers and several in-depth interviews with other stakeholders such as the agriculture department and various pesticide dealers. All the soil samples contained residues of pesticides, 2 of which are known to be highly toxic and accumulate in nature. Thus they represent a potential risk to the health of people and the ecosystem. The various factors contributing to heavy pesticide use include adulteration and the unscientific way pesticides are used, which in turn affects apiculture and populations of fish and migratory birds. Therefore, proper awareness and farmer training may be helpful to avoid use of pesticides, including for fishing, while administrative measures should be adopted against adulteration. Pesticide use can also be minimized by crop rotation, early harvesting, and reviving farmers' collective work system in farmer field schools (FFS).
While rural electrification brings economic, health, educational, and environmental benefits, it also creates persistent wastes that can have negative implications for human and environmental health. The rural development and environmental management intellectual communities have not worked together sufficiently to manage the nonbiodegradable waste products of rural development. In the Himalayan Kingdom of Bhutan—a nation noted for its vast forests and positive environmental record—the most challenging wastes to manage are those that follow rural electrification: spent light bulbs and fluorescent lights, and small appliances. Based on 6 months of field research in Bhutan, this paper proposes a depot and circuit rider system for the management of non-biodegradable wastes in rural areas.
The last few decades have seen an exponential increase in the atmospheric concentration of reactive nitrogen. This has led to concerns from scientists, ecologists, and land managers regarding a cascade of ecosystem impacts, and the potential for elevated atmospheric inputs to significantly alter nutrient-poor systems. At particular risk are fragile mountain ecosystems, normally low in nutrients. Control of enhanced nitrogen deposition is required to prevent damage to terrestrial biodiversity and soil water quality, and decrease the release of excess nitrogen into headwaters to the detriment of aquatic ecology. To meet this challenge, control measures operate through legislation aimed at reducing emissions or by ecosystem management at a local level. Current legislation to reduce emissions is under review, whilst techniques aimed at managing nitrogen in lowland ecosystems are impractical in most remote mountain environments. Here we present research which shows the extent of ecosystem damage from enhanced nitrogen deposition and aims to inform future policy in support of national and international action to reduce nitrogen emissions.
The Ore Mountains (the Krušné Hory Mountains) are located in Central Europe on the border between the Czech Republic and Saxony, Germany. They are known as an area where air pollution has had a very severe impact. Sulphur dioxide, produced mainly by coal power plants and the chemical industry, caused extensive decay of forests in the upper part of the Ore Mountains during the 1970s and 1980s. Dying trees were felled on more than 40,000 ha. Stands of mainly substitute tree species, considered to be more resistant to air pollution, were established on these locations. With the desulphurization of the main pollution sources and the decrease in industrial production, pollution significantly diminished during the 1990s. Nevertheless, even in the second half of the 1990s, distinctive damage to substitute forests was observed. A survey of their condition detected about 1600 ha of white birch stands in decline, 53 ha of blue spruce stands affected by needle yellowing, and prevalent damage of mountain ash by red deer. Our comprehensive studies closely observed the situation in the Ore Mountains and focused on practical questions and solutions to current forestry problems. We proposed appropriate measures relating to changes of tree species composition, forest plantation, silvicultural principles, and amelioration of forest soils, taking into account the current level of pollution, the condition of forest soils, and the vitality of forests. Several options, including a rough economic evaluation, are presented here.
The cryosphere is the body of the world's frozen water, composed of sea and continental ice, snow cover, and perpetually frozen soil and rocks (permafrost). Mountain glaciers cover about 160,000 km2 (World Glacier Monitoring Service 2008), sometimes reaching the lowlands and the sea. Awareness of their importance for water supply is rapidly increasing, as is their vulnerability as frozen “water towers” for the millennium. The snow cover is the outer surface of the cryosphere, with greater exposure to dust, pollutants, and ultimately contamination. There is a general perception of the importance of the cryosphere as a crucial thermodynamic system capable of storing water (when not needed) during the cold season and giving it back during the hot season (when necessary). At the same time, knowledge of the pattern and amount of contamination and the dynamics and interactions between pollutants and snow before, during, and after the melting processes is poor. Preliminary results of current research in Europe show a strong ionic release concentrated during the first phases of the melting season that could have a noticeable impact, not only on drinking water. The Environmental Monitoring of Snow project applied a relatively simple methodology to monitor the contamination of snow in Italy's mountains. This methodology could easily be used in other parts of the world, alerting the public to potential risks menacing water quality.
In current scientific and political discourses there is common agreement that the future of Alpine agriculture is a challenge not only for farmers, but also for society at large. What remains unclear is the question of how to adapt agriculture towards sustainable development of the Alpine territory in a manner that takes sufficient account of local diversity. We propose to treat agriculture and rural development as a matter of local concern, starting with a definition of sustainable agriculture drawn up by local stakeholders. Based on a 3-year experiment, we examine the capacity of local people to take joint action to contribute in a consistent way to rural development and to sustainable agriculture. We discuss the assets and limitations of local projects based on multi-stakeholder participation, ie in relation to their capacity to initiate closer links between farmers and other stakeholders and renew the contribution of agriculture to rural development. Our paper highlights 2 main points: first, how social dynamics are initiated and how farmers and other actors take joint action towards sustainable development; second, we analyze the impact of such local projects on agriculture and rural development and the counterbalancing effects of global factors, including market trends and related policies. Finally, we discuss the consequences of our results for policies targeting sustainable rural development.
Like other mountainous regions in the world, the High Atlas suffers from a number of disadvantages, primarily related to its marginality, topographical fragmentation, and harsh environmental conditions. It is characterized by limited, fragile, and highly degraded natural resources, low incomes, and a high poverty level. People living in mountainous areas are among the poorest in the Near East and North Africa (IFAD 2002). The present study analyzed the importance of a cooperative—as one example of a rural institution—in facilitating smallholders' access to markets, its impact on the livelihood strategies of households, and the implications for poverty reduction. Communities in two valleys with similar bio-physical conditions in the Moroccan High Atlas, Taddarine and Anougal, were compared. Whereas Taddarine has a paved road but no marketing institution, Anougal features a dairy cooperative but does not have a paved road. Rapid rural appraisal methods and household surveys were used to gather data on livelihood assets and activities. The value chains of the main product in either valley—apples in Taddarine and milk in Anougal—were analyzed using market mapping methodology. In Anougal, with no paved road and no electricity, the milk collection center of the dairy cooperative has made dairy production the most important source of income for the farmers. In contrast, dairy production and marketing has not developed in Taddarine, which has a paved road and electricity but no dairy cooperative. The most important source of income for these farmers is fruit production, with transport being facilitated by the paved road. The study shows that although road infrastructure in remote mountain communities is a necessary condition for market access, it is not sufficient. The development of local institutions—in this case a dairy cooperative—that facilitate market access by reducing marketing costs and opening up “economies of scale,” is essential.
In far-western and mid-western Nepal, where food shortages are prevalent, migration to India for work purposes has been a common livelihood strategy for a large part of rural households for at least two or three generations. In this paper, the focus is on male migrants who are part-time peasants in Nepal and part-time workers in Uttarakhand, northern India. Strategies to choose both a destination and work are studied in order to understand the spatial dimensions of migration. Factors such as the availability of work, networks, proximity, and concepts about space influence the choice of a destination made by migrants, who have to find a balance between constraints and ambitions.
Upper-elevation villagers in Nepal harvest large numbers of 5–10 cm diameter trees to construct itinerant herders' shelters. The harvest of these poles, as well as fuelwood and tree-leaf livestock fodder, may be altering upper-elevation forest structure and resource availability in Nepal. Near a village in west-central Nepal, we evaluated the sustainability of Symplocos ramosissima poles harvested for herders' shelter construction by comparing estimates of harvest and replenishment rates under 4 scenarios of spatial distribution of harvest within 3 equal-area forest types: 1) harvest evenly distributed, 2) harvest only in forest type closest to area of hut construction, 3) harvest in two closest forest types, 4) harvest in each forest type proportional to recent use patterns, as deduced from the density of stumps of pole-sized S. ramosissima. Mean density ± SE of pole-size S. ramosissima was 375 ± 32 stems ha−1. Tree-ring analysis of 24 pole-size S. ramosissima indicated a mean age of 35 years and a mean of 11 years to grow from 5 cm to 10 cm dbh. Comparisons of harvest and replenishment rates suggest that only harvest scenario 1 (even distribution) was sustainable. Harvest scenario 2 (closest forest type) and scenario 3 (two closest forest types) were unsustainable. Harvest scenario 4 (proportional to stump density) was sustainable in the two farther forest types, but unsustainable in the forest type closest to agricultural fields.
The Altos de Chiant-la in the Sierra de los Cuchumatanes represents an economic and environmental anomaly compared with areas surrounding it in highland Guatemala and Mesoamerica in general. For example, this cold and remote plateau region is dominated by sheep and potato production instead of maize, with maize being synonymous with surrounding Maya ethno-linguistic groups. Floristically, the area is also unique compared with surrounding areas. The Altos de Chiantla plateau is dominated by páramo grasslands and scattered groves of juniper, pines, and fir forests. Therefore, economically and environmentally, this area resembles Andean South America more than northern Central America. And while long-standing activities such as sheep ranching persist in this region, cultural, economic, and environmental changes are also taking place. The present article discusses general landscape changes in this region, with an emphasis on the various impacts that modernization such as remittances and agricultural development projects have brought.
Timberline changes in the Chornohora, the highest mountain range of the Ukrainian Carpathians, are related mainly to human activity. The most important factor influencing the timberline has been animal husbandry, with summer grazing on mountain pastures. Using historical maps and contemporary satellite data, we found that the timberline in the western Chornohora moved up by 80 m on average between 1933 and 2001, and the area of pastures (polonynas) shrank by one-third. The fastest advance of the timberline resulted from the expansion of spruce (Picea abies) and was detected far from working livestock farms. The smallest changes occurred in the case of deciduous (beech, ieFagus silvatica, and sycamore, ieAcer pseudoplatanus) timberlines and near working farms.
Thufur, 42–200 cm long and 9–27 cm high, are distributed in a summit crater of Mt Halla where freeze–thaw days occur over 70 times annually. The cryogenic mounds are frozen as a hard solid mass during winter and their lower part remains frozen until late April even though they begin to thaw in mid-March. Since the water content of thufur increases and exceeds a liquid limit during March and April, thufur soils may be subject to cryoturbation. An exfoliating terrace in a northwestern grassland of Mt Halla retreated at a rate of 22.2 mm/year from 2002 to 2004. Frost action is the process contributing most to turf exfoliation, with the maximum retreat rate observed from late March to early May. Thufur and turf exfoliation indicate that the subalpine grassland of Mt Halla is likely to be situated in a periglacial environment. However, global warming has affected these periglacial features through vegetation changes. The withering of alpine shrubs is partly responsible for the formation of crater-like thufur and subsequent rupture of thufur, while the rapid spread of Sasa quelpaertensis checks the retreat of turf terraces.
This article considers the effects of forests on the hydrology of a Mediterranean mountain area. Variations of climate factors, discharge, interception, and water table depth in the San Salvador forested experimental catchment in the Central Spanish Pyrenees were studied and the results compared with those from two deforested catchments. The hydrological response of the San Salvador catchment had the following properties: 1) it had both smaller peak flows and smaller low flows than the deforested catchments; 2) most rainstorm events produced almost no discharge response; 3) the intensity of precipitation had no influence on the magnitude of peak flows; and 4) depth to the water table was the most important factor in the relationship between precipitation and discharge. These results confirm that forest conservation reduces floods and soil erosion, particularly on steep slopes.
As development and population increase, efficient use and management of water in mountain watersheds is of growing concern in Asia. The work presented in this article applied hydro-meteorological monitoring and participatory action research on water availability to improve water management in Xizhuang watershed in Yunnan Province, China. With an area of 34.56 km2 and a population of 4501, Xizhuang watershed is typical of the watersheds in the middle mountains that feed the Salween River. Although this catchment provides plentiful water (rainfall and runoff), the temporal and spatial distribution of this supply is uneven. Together with uneven distribution, major issues include water shortages for irrigation, domestic use, and livestock; poor water quality; and conflicts among different stakeholders. To improve sustainable use and conservation, this paper suggests developing integrated water resource management and water harvest technology.
Winter tourism is highly sensitive to climate change. The sufficiently studied altitudinally dependent line of natural snow reliability is losing its relevance for skilift operators in Austria, where 59% of the ski area is covered by artificial snowmaking. But the diffusion of snowmaking facilities cannot be monocausally linked to climate change, as trends in tourism, prestige, and competitive advantage are important factors. Despite the fact that snowmaking is limited by climatological factors, skilift operators trust in technical improvements and believe the future will not be as menacing as assumed by recent climate change impact studies. The aim of the present study is to define reasons for the diffusion of snowmaking systems and to determine whether snowmaking can be a viable adaptation strategy despite ongoing warming, using a simple degree-day model. Results obtained with this method of assessing technical snow reliability show that current snowmaking intensity will not be sufficient to guarantee the desired 100-day season at elevations below 1500–1600 m. Snowmaking will still be possible climatically even at lower elevations, but the required intensification of capacity will lead to significantly higher operation costs.
The Rio Santa valley in the Cordillera Blanca, Peru, has been repeatedly affected by severe glacial flood disasters in the past decades. The continuing high rate of glacier retreat has led to the formation and rapid growth of a large number of glacial lakes. Due to the risk of lake outburst floods, downstream communities are confronted with serious hazards. The regional capital of Huaraz is one of the major sites exposed to these hazards. Mainly due to a lack of resources, no systematic evaluation of the existing hazards and related risks has been performed so far, nor have adequate warning systems been installed. Strict financial limitations make a prioritization of mitigation measures a necessity. Vulnerability assessments are an effective tool to this end. In this article, we present a method to measure the vulnerability of Huaraz to hazards from glacial lake outbursts integrating both physical (ie hazards-related) and socioeconomic factors. The difficulty of quantifying socioeconomic variables and its combination with physical factors, as well as a lack of corresponding concepts, is a challenge for measuring vulnerability. The resulting map shows a high vulnerability for several parts of Huaraz. The results of this study thus make an important contribution to effectively addressing the identified protection deficit and to efficiently assigning the limited resources in the context of a developing country. However, this article also shows the strong need for more vulnerability research integrating both physical and social science components and related theoretical frameworks to be readily applied in practice.
Longbasaba and Pida lakes are two moraine-dammed lakes located at the headwaters of the Geiqu River, a tributary of the Pumqu River in the Chinese Himalayas, at an elevation of about 5700 m. The minimum distance between the two lakes is 24 m and their difference in elevation is about 76 m. Breach risks were assessed on the basis of field surveys carried out in the summers of 2004, 2005, and 2006. Empirical formulae for breaching of moraine dams and the BREACH model for earthen dam failure were employed to simulate the breach properties and hydrograph of floods at the breaching site of the dam from the two lakes. The modeling showed that an outburst flood from Longbasa-ba and Pida lakes would last for about 5.5 hours and have a peak discharge of about 3–5 × 104 m3/s at about 1.8 hours after the beginning of the outburst.
Multivariate regression analysis, combined with residuals correction, was carried out to develop a precipitation prediction model for the Daqing Mountains of Inner Mongolia in northern China. Precipitation data collected at 56 stations between 1955 and 1990 were used: data from 48 stations for model development and data from 8 stations for additional tests. Five topographic factors—altitude, slope, aspect, longitude, and latitude—were taken into account for model development. These topographic variables were acquired from a 100-m resolution digital elevation model (DEM) of the study region, and the mean values of the sub-basin in which a precipitation station is located were used as the values of the respective variables of that station. The multivariate regression model can explain 72.6% of the spatial variability of precipitation over the whole year and 74.4% of variability in the wet season (June–September). Precipitation in the dry season (October–May) is hard to model owing to little rainfall (21.78% of annual rainfall) and a different synoptic system. Interpolation-based residuals correction did not significantly improve the accuracy of our model, which shows that our model is quite effective. The model, as presented in this paper, could potentially be applied to other mountains and in mountain climate research.