Department of Geography and the Environment

Dr. Young Presents Keynote Presentation at Mountain Futures Conference in China

Mon, June 11, 2018
Dr. Young Presents Keynote Presentation at Mountain Futures Conference in China
Dr. Kenneth Young

Dr. Kenneth Young was one of several keynote speakers at a conference held recently in southern China on change in the world’s mountains. The conference was held in Kunming, and was organized by the World Agroforestry Centre and the Kunming Institute of Botany.

About 120 participants came from several dozen countries to give talks and present posters, to go on a two-day field trip to Honghe County in Yunnan Province, and to enjoy a film festival of documentaries made by and for Tibetan pastoralists. There were views of ancient rice terrace systems, discussions of global change affecting livelihoods worldwide of mountain residents, and interchanges among researchers, practitioners, and students.

Dr. Young gave his talk about the Andes Mountains, with an evaluation of current and likely trends for change in both ecological and social processes. His title was “Ecosystem regime shifts, possible synergies, and the Andes Mountains of the future”. The following is an abstract of his presentation:

Over the next two decades, current land use/land cover changes are expected to continue in the Andes Mountains. This prediction in turn suggests that climate change, population shifts, and the increasing effects of global markets will continue to alter decision making by mountain farmers and pastoralists who are dependent upon ecosystem services. There is a distance effect acting upon these predictions: nearness matters, for example, in terms of isolation from the effects of extractive industries or from the opportunities to be found in urban areas. Water resources will alter as a function of shifts in glacier mass balance and in precipitation regimes, as constrained by drainage basin and by hydrological connectivity. Collectively, the socioeconomic processes involved will tend to propel natural systems through complex ecological transitions. In turn, the resulting ecosystem regime shifts will have complicated feedbacks with land use. Case studies to be illustrated include how 1) glacier retreat in Peru’s Cordillera Blanca is but one change dynamic acting upon the drainage basins; 2) forest cover shows signs of increasing in many long-inhabited landscapes in the central Andes, although explanations vary; and 3) vegetation in highland pastoral systems is altered in relation to the livelihood goals of local people and the kind of livestock management utilized. In all these cases, nonlinear change relationships are expected, making predictions difficult in the face of concurrent climate and political changes. Nevertheless, the respective stakeholders and institutions may provide means for solutions including 1) how water resources are distributed; 2) if forest expansion can be used proactively for biodiversity conservation; and 3) whether ecological restoration can be tied to social and economic goals. In conclusion, despite complexity and feedbacks, there are also synergies that may be useful in the search for sustainable routes through future regime shifts in the mountains of the world.  

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