Bridging Communities and Scales Through a Global Transdisciplinary Mountain Sustainability Network
Mountains provide an important and distinctive type of coupling between natural and human systems. First, mountains themselves have especially diverse and intricate arrangements of habitats for both wildlife and people. Second, mountains are prone to natural catastrophes such as landslides and earthquakes and vulnerable to human-caused erosion and shifts in habitats due to climate change. Third, the interactions between natural montane systems and human systems extend considerable distances into lowlands, through use of such resources as water and timber. Fourth, different mountain ranges often differ in species and cultures and so provide comparative examples of how coupling between nature and humans works. This research coordination network will advance basic understanding of how natural and human systems affect one another by synthesizing data from the many individual studies of natural and human processes in mountains around the world. Results will inform management of forests and water supplies and protection of biodiversity and human livelihoods and culture in the U.S. and elsewhere. Through the Rocky Mountain Sustainability and Science Academy, researchers and stakeholders will receive professional training to enhance career opportunities and support collective action. The project will also train graduate students and promote international scientific cooperation.
Using an innovative global-framework approach, the network will identify commonalities and differences in present-day dynamics and explore alternative future trajectories of montane coupled natural and human systems worldwide. Researchers, stakeholders, and policy-makers will develop and test mountain system typologies and trajectories using dynamic models. The network will engage in exercises with simple models to build common understandings and co-production of knowledge with a range of stakeholders. The modeling work and analytical discussions will promote learning, conceptualization, and comparative analysis of coupled processes and changes in mountains. The network will provide novel opportunities for sharing knowledge, experience, and data through face-to-face and virtual interaction.