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Loss of mountain forests would unleash serious socio-economic effects – UN

Article / Review by on December 9, 2011 – 6:43 pmNo Comments

Loss of mountain forests would unleash serious socio-economic effects – UN

Loss of mountain forests

The loss of mountain forests sparked by increasing temperatures and population growth would have serious socio-economic and environmental consequences, the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) warned today, calling on governments to increase their efforts to protect them and incorporate them into their climate change policies.

“Mountain forests protect local communities against natural disasters and they safeguard the natural resources and environmental services that billions of people rely on for their well-being and livelihoods,” said Eduardo Rojas-Briales, FAO’s Assistant Director General for Forestry.

Mountain forests protect local communities against natural disasters and they safeguard the natural resources and environmental services that billions of people rely on for their well-being and livelihoods. 

According to the latest report produced jointly by FAO and the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation, mountain forests have a great influence on the quantity and quality of water supplies. About 60 per cent of the world’s freshwater resources come from mountains, even though they only cover 12 per cent of the Earth’s surface.

“When forests are removed from mountains, soil erodes more quickly, deteriorating the water quality in streams and rivers,” the report reads, adding that many cities depend heavily on mountain water.

Some 95 per cent of Vienna’s water comes from the mountain forests of the Northern Alps, while 40 per cent of the water for Tegucigalpa, Honduras, comes from the cloud forests of La Tigra National Park. In Kenya, water from Mount Kenya generates 97 per cent of that country’s hydroelectric power. In Asia, the Tibetan plateau acts as a water tower for about three billion people.

In addition to being important freshwater sources, mountain forests also play an important role on climate change as they store large quantities of carbon. The loss of mountain forests would release this carbon into the atmosphere, having a negative impact on the environment.

The report, which was produced ahead of International Mountain Day on Sunday, calls on national policy-makers to “take into account the importance of protecting and conserving mountain forests and integrating them into policies aimed at mitigating and adapting to climate change.”

It also stresses their importance at an international policy level to achieve sustainable development goals.

“Mountain forests are being affected by many global challenges, such as climate change, water scarcity, loss of biodiversity and desertification, but they also offer significant opportunities for solutions. Sustainable development of mountain forests requires and deserves a prominent place on the international agenda,” Mr. Rojas said.

The report also emphasizes that mountain people play a key part in preserving this ecosystem and should therefore be empowered by governments so they can have a say in the management of the local forestry resources, and share the benefits from forest use and conservation.

A ceremony will be held at FAO headquarters in Rome on 12 December to mark International Mountain Day, whose theme this year is “Mountain forests – roots to our future.”

A World Mountain Forum also opened today in Verbier, Switzerland, to highlight the key role of mountains in ecosystems. On Sunday, the forum will connect via a live stream to conservation experts, local government and private sector representatives as well as UN officials in various parts of the world to discuss new approaches in mountain conservation.

The forum, in collaboration with the UN Environmental Programme (UNEP), will also launch a new public-private partnership initiative that would support sustainable mountain development efforts around the world.

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Mountain forests under threat
FAO urges increased attention to conservation of highland forest ecosystems

9 December 2011, Rome

The integrity and resilience of mountain forests is under threat from increasing temperatures and wildfires, population growth and food and fuel insecurity, warns a new FAO publication released today.

Population pressures and the expansion of intensive agriculture have forced smallholder farmers to move higher towards marginal areas and steep slopes, sparking a loss of forests, warns Mountain Forests in a Changing World. It also notes that climate change is likely to facilitate more rapid expansion by pests and disease-causing organisms which may cause additional damage to mountain forests.

The report, jointly produced by the FAO-hosted Mountain Partnership Secretariat and the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation, was published in the lead up to the UN International Mountain Day on 11 December.

“Mountain forests protect local communities against natural disasters and they safeguard the natural resources and environmental services that billions of people rely on for their well-being and livelihoods,” said Eduardo Rojas-Briales, FAO’s Assistant Director General for Forestry. “Mountain forests are being affected by many global challenges, such as climate change, water scarcity, loss of biodiversity and desertification, but they also offer significant opportunities for solutions. Sustainable development of mountain forests requires and deserves a prominent place on the international agenda.”

Source of fresh water

Mountains provide 60 percent of the world’s freshwater resources despite covering only 12 percent of the Earth’s surface, FAO’s report says.  Mountain forests strongly influence both the quantity and quality of water supplies to mountain and lowland communities and industries.  When forests are removed from mountains and land is left unprotected, runoff and soil erosion increase, with water quality deteriorating in streams and rivers as a consequence.

Many cities depend heavily on mountain water — for example, 95 percent of Vienna’s water is sourced from the mountain forests of Northern Alps, while 40 percent of the water for Tegucigalpa, Honduras, comes from the cloud forests of La Tigra National Park. In Kenya, water from Mount Kenya generates 97 percent of that country’s hydroelectric power. In Asia, the Tibetan plateau acts as a water tower for around 3 billion people. 

Integration in climate change policies

Mountain forests store a vast quantity of carbon and have an important role to play in climate change policies, FAO’s report notes. The loss of mountain forests would release large amounts of carbon into the atmosphere, it says.

National policymakers should take into account the importance of protecting and conserving mountain forests and integrate these concerns into policies aimed at mitigating and adapting to climate change.

At the global level, the key services provided by mountain forests should be better reflected in international negotiations and meetings on climate change, water quality and environmental issues, in particular in light of the research findings on pollution and glacier melting presented at the Mountain Day held during the UNFCCC COP17 climate change conference in Durban, South Africa.

Empowerment of mountain people

Mountain people — who are among the world’s poorest and hungriest — are key to maintaining mountain ecosystems, adds FAO’s report. They should have a say in the management of the local forestry resources upon which they depend, and share the benefits from forest use and conservation.

Together with the report on mountain forests, FAO also released two more publications focusing on the important role of mountain ecosystems for improving rural livelihoods and poverty alleviation: Highlands and Drylands: Mountainsa Source of Resilience in Arid Regions, and Why Invest in Sustainable Mountain Development?

A ceremony will be held at FAO headquarters on 12 December to commemorate International Mountain Day 2011. This year, the focus of the Day is “Mountain forests – roots to our future.”

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> UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO).

The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) is an intergovernmental organization and has 191 Member Nations, two associate members and one member organization, the European Union. Achieving food security for all is at the heart of FAO’s efforts – to make sure people have regular access to enough high-quality food to lead active, healthy lives.

FAO HEADQUARTERS. Rome, Italy. Credit: FAO. Giulio Napolitano

FAO’s mandate is to raise levels of nutrition, improve agricultural productivity, better the lives of rural populations and contribute to the growth of the world economy.

The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) is working with its Members and the entire international community for achievement of the Millennium Development Goals.

These eight goals – each with specific targets and indicators – are based on the United Nations Millennium Declaration, signed by world leaders in September 2000. They commit the international community to combating poverty, hunger, disease, illiteracy, environmental degradation, and discrimination against women.

The eight Millennium Development Goals are:

The eight Millennium Development Goals are:
Goal 1: Eradicate extreme poverty and hunger
Goal 2: Achieve universal primary education
Goal 3: Promote gender equality and empower women
Goal 4: Reduce child mortality
Goal 5: Improve maternal health
Goal 6: Combat HIV/AIDS, malaria and other diseases
Goal 7: Ensure environmental sustainability
Goal 8: Develop a Global Partnership for Development

* More information at UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO)

UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO)

 

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> United Nations (UN).

The General Assembly in session. Photo credit: UN / Eskinder Debebe The United Nations was established on 24 October 1945 by 51 countries committed to preserving peace through international cooperation and collective security. Today, nearly every nation in the world belongs to the UN: membership totals 192 countries.

When States become Members of the United Nations, they agree to accept the obligations of the UN Charter, an international treaty that sets out basic principles of international relations. According to the Charter, the UN has four purposes:

  • to maintain international peace and security;
  • to develop friendly relations among nations;
  • to cooperate in solving international problems and in promoting respect for human rights;
  • and to be a centre for harmonizing the actions of nations.

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* The above story is adapted from materials provided by United Nations (UN)
** More information at United Nations (UN)

More about United Nations (UN)

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