BWG 8 –  Polar regions & High mountains

1. Introduction & Objectives

Global changes bring significant alterations in ecosystems and ecosystem services in arctic and alpine areas. The climatic treeless alpine and arctic areas cover roughly 10.7 km2 (7.4%) of the land surface of Earth1. The supply of ecosystem service in the arctic and alpine tundra are regulated by extreme seasonality of temperature and light availability, short growing season, and by cryospheric processes connected to snow and ice conditions. The native biodiversity is under pressure due to global warming which reduces the extent of treeless areas, increase vegetation productivity and shrub expansion, and facilitates invasions of non-native species. Subsistence uses relying on hunting, fishing, gathering or pastoralism are still prevalent, while some locations are characterized by rapid expansions in resource extraction of oil, gas and mineral resources and development of tourism. Ecosystem services in many of these remote and sparsely populated areas are not sold or bought on a market, connectivity and infrastructure are poorly developed and the population is typically economically disadvantaged on either a national or a global scale. The Arctic is the homeland to indigenous and local populations whose connections to nature represents a cultural continuity that goes beyond the immediate needs associated with commercial or subsistence uses. In alpine tundra areas, such as the European alps, there are unique habitat types such as grasslands, meadows, and moorlands that have been shaped by fire, livestock grazing, mowing, and other human activities through centuries. Standard valuation techniques to capture use and non-use values could be applied under specific conditions, but there is a need to develop novel methodology and integrated approaches that reflect ecosystem services as an inherent feature of arctic and alpine socio-ecological systems in which people and nature are highly connected.

Objective: The objective is to explore how major driving forces in arctic and alpine regions such as climate, land use, tourism activities and resource extractions could alter ecosystem services provisioning deemed valuable for beneficiaries on different scales. We investigate novel methodologies and integrated approaches that allow for comparative and cross-case analyses of use and non-use values of ecosystem services in data poor, remote, and sparsely populated areas. We seek to bridge research in alpine and arctic areas by focusing on changes in ecosystem services brought about by global warming or global connectedness associated with resource extraction activities, tourism, education, infrastructure and communication technologies.

  1. The Arctic tundra cover approximately 7.1 million km2 (4.8%) of the land surface of Earth. CAVM Team. 2003. Circumpolar Arctic vegetation map. Conservation of Arctic Flora and Fauna (CAFF) Map No. 1, US Fish and Wildlife Service, Anchorage, USA. The alpine tundra above the climatic tree limit cover about 3.6 million km2 (2.6%) as defined by Körner, C., Paulsen, J., & Spehn, E. M. (2011). A definition of mountains and their bioclimatic belts for global comparisons of biodiversity data. Alpine Botany, 121(2), 73-78.

 

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