- Date submitted: 1 Nov 2011
- Stakeholder type: Major Group
- Submission Document: Download
- Additional Document:
The role of mountains in regulating Earth?s climate and fresh water systems is vital for the sustenance of all life, as all of Earth's rivers originate in them. Healthy mountain ecosystems are the foundation for global health and stability. Therefore when considering sustainable development and green economies the health and balance of the global fresh water system is the most important issue that needs to be imminently addressed and raised to a level of paramount importance. All life on Earth and all economies are dependent upon this. Glaciers form the water towers of Earth. Over the last century, mountain glaciers worldwide have, on average, been seriously decreasing in length and volume. Glaciers worldwide have been retreating so rapidly that they may almost completely disappear within fifty years. In mountain regions high altitude forests, through the action of precipitation and transpiration, play a key role in the creation of snow. Certain indigenous mountain plants such as the Oak play a major role in cloud seeding. Without this process, functioning, the amount of snow is massively reduced and glaciers cannot be fully replenished. These glaciers and snows are also important because they act like a mirror reflecting solar radiation. As they melt, the mirror thins and more solar rays penetrate through to the Earth, increasing Earths' temperature. As this ice melts, it also increases the quantity of water vapor in the atmosphere. Water vapor (H₂O) is a very powerful greenhouse gas, which normally stays in the atmosphere for no more than nine days. However if it is not brought to Earth through precipitation, it remains in the upper atmosphere and increases the problems of the greenhouse effect. Earth?s hydrological system, unlike coal, uranium and oil, is a fast regenerating system. Given the right ingredients, of mixed indigenous mountain forests, it can be rebalanced and maintained indefinitely. The stability of Earth?s rivers and water tables depends upon maintaining the integrity of watersheds. These, in turn, depend upon the healthy biodiversity of high altitude forests. It has been recognized that the protective function of stable forest cover is vital for safeguarding them. It is recorded that only 25% of mixed indigenous mountain forests are still intact worldwide. This implies that 75% of the worlds' indigenous mountain forests have been removed. These forests are the natural mechanism, which would normally be involved in making the mountain snows and replenishing the glaciers. The global fresh water system and hence all of life on Earth is utterly dependent upon them.
Therefore, to save the glaciers from melting all together and Earth's rivers from drying up, it is a matter of great urgency to protect, conserve and restore indigenous mountain forests worldwide. However mass deforestation along with monoculture pine programs have left these regions seriously eroded, denuded and polluted. As rains wash away the scanty remaining soils, the task becomes more difficult and in some places impossible. Nevertheless there are techniques which could be used and prove to be successful if implemented swiftly .Utilizing the knowledge of mountain people and working together with them is essential for success. Using a combination of methods ranging from traditional conservation knowledge, companion planting, green corridors and Permaculture techniques, the regeneration of these forests could conceivably be accomplished. Local mountain communities could be organized into collectives using cooperative methods for replanting, managing and maintaining these forests. Regenerating and protecting indigenous mountain forests would increase employment and create green economies within mountain regions. 'Payment for Environmental Services' schemes could be used to support mountainous countries and communities to establish and protect indigenous mountain forests as this assures the protection of the global fresh water system. In the light of this, the detrimental effects of hydro-dams on the environment in these regions should also be reconsidered. Along with all life on Earth, hydro- dams are dependent upon healthy glacial flow. With melting glaciers they are no longer as reliable as when they were first conceived. Some that have been built in the Andes are already proving to be ineffective as glaciers have decreased. Given the quantity of high quality free solar energy in mountain regions, it would be beneficial to replace hydro-dam electrical projects with solar power projects. There is no greater urgency today, than to protect, regenerate and conserve biodiversity in mountain regions.
Authors Tara Joy and Stella Joy (Directors Active Remedy Ltd.)
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