Generating and managing data and knowledge in climate and water resources for climate adaptation

To promote and support sustainable mountain development (SMD), a sound knowledge base is required, and the sharing of this knowledge has to be ensured. The programme “Sustainable Development for Global Change (SMD4GC)” supports various activities to contribute to SMD, such as the generation and management of data and knowledge in climate and water resources as a key for climate adaption, to serve the needs for action in SMD. However, there is a lack of mountain specific data and information at global, regional, national and local levels, which hampers the generation of mountain-relevant knowledge and impedes advocacy work.

The present session brought together a selection of papers with a wealth of both methodologically and geographically different subjects:

The introductory presentation was given by Graham McDowell (University of British Columbia, Vancouver, Canada) who did a solid, systematic review on the understanding of climate change adaptation in glaciated mountain regions. The presenter identified a move from theorizing adaptation to tracking on-the-ground processes and outcomes, which eventually contributes to evidence-based adaptation policies to support highland communities at the front-line of climate change. Knowledge gaps have been identified, but also a pressing need for more research on the human dimensions of climate change in mountain regions. The second paper by Marc Zebisch (EURAC Institute for Applied Remote Sensing, Bolzano, Italy) was on the potential of remote sensing to monitor key hydrological parameters and processes in mountain regions. Spatially explicit time series of hydrologically relevant data can be gathered by remote sensing where other observations are rare, especially for approaches with regard to energy balance. Main limitations are data gaps and the lack of data availability in the past, i.e. extending the last 20 years). Modelling and the clever integration with other data sources can help to overcome these gaps. The third speaker, Susan Janse van Rensburg (South African Environmental Observational Network, Pietermaritzburg, South Africa), highlighted the importance of in situ long-term monitoring for sustainable (mountain) development. The monitoring strategy includes the creation of a research infrastructure platform that can be used to build capacity and to generate knowledge. Interactions and Earth system process are captured in the very well investigated Cathedral Peak catchment, which constitutes South Africa’s water tower. Mohammed Saif Al-Kalbani (Centre for Mountain Studies, Perth, UK) presented the various impacts of climate change on water resources in the arid mountains of Oman. Growing activities (especially tourism) infer with agricultural use, but projections of future evolution of water resources are constricted by the limited availability of long-term (climate) data. The two last presentations were on monitoring and assessing water resources changes in the Andes. The paper by Bert De Bièvre and colleagues was presented by Boris Ochoa-Tocachi (Imperial College London, London, UK) and summarized the monitoring of the effectiveness of water conservation measures through a participatory monitoring network in the Andes, performed within the large iMHEA initiative on hydrological monitoring of Andean ecosystems, coordinated by CONDESAN. The initiative has a geographical scope, identifies human interventions and activities as key components, and compares both green and grey infrastructures. Finally, Fabian Drenkhan (University of Zurich, Zurich, Switzerland) gave a detailed and comprehensive overview of the current state of water availability and demand in glacier-fed catchments of Peru. Glaciers are identified as crucial water resources in dry seasons and in the further upstream regions. Studies indicate that the peak water has already past but water demand is rising. The following discussion revealed that the lack of reliable, long-term environmental data is a barrier, especially with regard to future projections of available water resources.

General spatial and temporal scarcity of reliable long-term data in mountain regions remain a key issue and are vital for activities towards SMD. However, the presentations and the lively discussions also showed that there are many local to regional initiatives ongoing, often with participatory approaches. Great potential has been identified to share knowledge and experience of means of measurements, but coordination and funding at the international level is strongly needed.

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