07.11.2013 - Natural Sciences Sector

Showing Climate Change Impacts on Mountains of the World

JaxaSatellite image from the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency’s (JAXA) ALOS satellite taken on 16 March 2008.

With the generous support of the Government of Flanders (Belgium), the UNESCO Man and Biosphere Programme (MAB) and the International Hydrological Programme (IHP) developed an exhibition that features satellite images of different mountain regions worldwide, many of which are UNESCO Biosphere Reserves.

Occupying 24% of the Earth’s surface, mountains and their adjacent valleys are home to 1.2 billion people. The importance of mountains as a source of freshwater justifies their reputation as ‘water towers’ of the world. They provide numerous and diverse sources of ecosystem services, with water supply one of the most critical. About 40% of the world population depends indirectly on mountain resources for water supply, agriculture, hydroelectricity and biodiversity.

Mountains are among the most sensitive ecosystems to climate change and are being affected at a faster rate than other terrestrial habitats. Climate impacts form an important threat to mountain ecosystem services and the populations depending on them, and have considerable effects on water resources. Many glaciers are retreating under the influence of rising temperatures, making them key indicators of climate change.

Using satellite images, the exhibition ”Climate change impacts on mountains of the world” highlights the critical functions of mountains, and the implications of climate change for mountain ecosystems, water resources and livelihoods. The exhibition is displayed on the exterior fences of UNESCO’s Headquarters in Paris until 15 December 2013.

This exhibition is a contribution to the International Year of Water Cooperation (2013) and was created with the support of the following partners: The Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA), The European Space Agency (ESA), The United States Geological Survey (USGS) and Planet Action.

A high panel session organized during the UNESCO General conference will also call attention on the urgent need for enhanced monitoring and modeling of climate change impacts in mountain regions, to further develop sustainable adaptation strategies and policies.

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