RT: Advances in observatories of mountain social-ecological systems

Martha Apple (botanist from Montana Tech) explained her monitoring of snow field plant diversity in Glacier National Park, Montana (USA). Snow field plants exist along a gradient of growing season duration (or put another way, a gradient of release from snow cover). Snow field plants are therefore likely sensitive indicators of the precipitation regime and they may change with climate change. (I am not certain that Martha said this so please, Martha, correct me if I am imagining this.)

Given the prevalence of snow field plants as a distinct community type at other sites (e.g. Niwot Ridge)  the monitoring protocols might be of interest to other sites.  Robbie Hart asked if Martha could provide a description of her monitoring protocols, and Martha thought that this might be possible.

Alejandra Acre (Ph.D. student at University of Antioquia, Medellin Colombia) working with the International Potato Center) described a CIP program to collect and then monitor native potato diversity at hotspots along the plant’s native range in the Andes from Peru to Chile.  The program collects data not only on the genetic diversity of cultivars, but also on farm management, uses/preparations of the crop and other aspects of the entire potato production system. The techniques for gathering and curating traditional knowledge was of great interest, and especially how holders/owners of such knowledge could benefit.

Implications of the potato diversity monitoring program for the observation of mountain social-ecological systems included 1) the critical importance of partnerships with local institutions to ensure long-term institutional sustainability, 2) the importance of compensating (in some manner, financially and/or socially) those who hold and provide knowledge, 3) the genetic diversity of important crops and animals in all mountain production systems, and 4) the use of geospatial technology to monitor the status and trends of the extent of cultivation.

Greg Greenwood described the origins of the Global Network of Long-Term Observatories of Mountain Social-Ecological Systems (short name: GNOMO) in the Global Fair and Workshop held in July 2014 in Reno with UNR, and its launch at Rocky Mountain Biological Lab with cooperation with the Organization of Biological Field Stations in September 2015. He displayed the current map showing all observatories known to MRI, as well as those observatories that participated in the launching workshop. The mission to the network is ponderous but complete:

Teams of researchers, covering the range of pertinent disciplines, work together in a finite number of sites representative of the diversity of mountain regions around the world to develop their understanding of the current structure and function, as well as the longer-term evolution, of mountain social-ecological systems using protocols that support comparative analysis, at a detail sufficient to support forecasts of likely outcomes, given sufficiently defined boundary conditions, and in ways that engage a wide range of actors and contribute significantly to public and private decision-making.

Ray Bradley reminded the group of the necessity of a clear statement of purpose, which may not jump out the mission statement but which is indeed the desire to project what mountain social-ecological systems with look like under global change. Stefan Schneiderbauer similarly saw a potential link to sustainability. Martha thought art could produce compelling icons for mountains.  All seemingly agreed that a small set of common variables measured by all sites to ensure comparability coupled with the option of measuring additional variables that might only allow comparisons across a smaller set of sites was a reasonable route to follow.


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