The Group on Earth Observations’ Global Network for Information and Observations in Mountain Environments (GEO Mountains) has had a busy and productive year.

Our Members/Participants have collaborated effectively with the staff of the GEO Mountains Secretariat to undertake a rich programme of inventory development, fundamental research, and communication and dissemination activities.

Website released

An important initial step was the release of our dedicated website, The site already provides key information on the history, structure, and objectives of the network.

We hope that over time, as we collectively expand the breadth of information and resources available, it will become a central 'hub' around which our global community of mountain data providers and users can coalesce.

Inventory development

With regards to inventory development, two highlights were the releases of the GEO Mountains’ In Situ Inventory of Observational Infrastructure (v1.0) and the Global Mountain Explorer v2, the latter of which was led by Dr. Royer Sayre (USGS).

We are currently working hard to populate the GEO Mountains General Inventory, with a first release planned for early 2022. This inventory intends to provide searchable and filterable links to a range of potentially useful remotely sensed and modelled datasets, as well as open-source simulation codes and other tools. As such, it such should complement the in situ inventory well.

Together, these inventory-oriented efforts correspond to one of the fundamental objectives of GEO Mountains: to increase the discoverability and accessibility of relevant data and information pertaining to a range of disciplines.

As a network, we are largely reliant on you, colleagues involved in the mountain sphere, to help ensure that these resources are as comprehensive, accurate, and up-to-date as possible. We would therefore strongly encourage you to contribute any mountainous measurement stations or other infrastructure, datasets, or tools that you are aware of to the appropriate inventory:

Gain credit and increase the impact of your efforts!

Scientific agenda setting and fundamental research activities

Moving onto more research-related activities, we were pleased to publish our paper 'Toward a Definition of Essential Mountain Climate Variables', and are now developing a companion publication – led by Prof. Dirk Schmeller (Toulouse INP) – on Essential Biodiversity Variables (EBVs) in Mountains.

We have also recently completed two further research projects and submitted the corresponding papers for peer review.

The first sought to assess, in a fully transparent and reproducible fashion, the impact of alternative input dataset choices on global and regional estimates of human mountain population estimates, as well as to explore associations between mountain population densities and potential environmental co-variates at sub-mountain range scale (see here for further details).

The latter analysed the coverage of operational in situ climatological stations with respect to space, time, and elevation (see here for further details); the results could prove extremely useful for setting future investment priorities in climate monitoring infrastructure.

Wherever relevant, we will continue to work in tandem with the MRI’s existing Working Groups on Mountain Observatories and Elevation Dependent Climate Change, which are led by Prof. Maria Shahgedanova and Dr. Nick Pepin, respectively, to develop mutually beneficial activities and outputs.

Elsewhere, our colleagues at EURAC Research – led by Drs. Ruth Sonnenschein, Alexander Jacob, and Marc Zebisch – continue to make excellent progress on the AI4EBVs project, with a release of the new datasets generated and submission of a scientific paper planned for 2022.

Building a community

Besides acting as an efficient broker between data providers, putting together project teams and consortia with the necessary breadth of skills and experience, and providing exclusive funding opportunities (e.g., those associated with the Group on Earth Observations), another important aspect of our effort to build a truly diverse and impactful network involves our commitment to showcasing and hopefully expanding the reach and impact of projects, initiatives, and organisations that may have been initiated or funded entirely independently of GEO Mountains, but which nevertheless align with our philosophy (open data sharing, collaboration, knowledge exchange, capacity development, and Open Science, etc.) and/or contribute to our objectives.

For this reason, we have developed a section of our website to list these as 'GEO Mountains Affiliated Projects'. The most recent addition is Community Snow Observations (CSO), a citizen science effort to improve knowledge on mountain snowpacks. Many congratulations to the CSO team on their achievements to date, and thanks to Prof. Gabe Wolken for presenting the project at our recent General Meeting.

Our May Meeting and recent General Meeting provided opportunities to convene the community, update one another on progress, and discuss key challenges and next steps.

Communication and dissemination activities

In addition to the above, representatives of GEO Mountains were present at, and actively contributed to, many key events, conferences, and policy-relevant fora throughout the year. For instance, we held a side event at the EGU 2021, and presented our Essential Mountain Climate Variables work at GWF2021 and as part of the MRI’s 20th Anniversary Lecture Series. We hosted a successful session dedicated to mountains at the GEO Virtual Symposium in June, and were heavily involved in GEO Week 2021 (giving presentations in both the Plenary session and a session dedicated to the GEO Knowledge Hub). Lastly, we were invited to contribute to COP 26; we gave a presentation during a session at the Geneva Cryosphere Hub entitled Earth Observations for Monitoring Climate Change Impacts in Mountain Regions in collaboration with longstanding GEO Mountains Participants Dr. Gregory Giuliani and Dr. Yaniss Guigoz (both from the University of Geneva / GRID-Geneva), and MRI SLC Member Dr. Mandira Shrestha presented a poster entitled Asian High Mountain Observatories on behalf of both ICIMOD and GEO Mountains at COP26’s Earth Information Day.

We greatly appreciate being invited to contribute to such events, and are reassured that this indicates that the efforts and outputs of the entire network are becoming increasingly noticed and appreciated across the community more generally.

Regional consultations

Under the Adaptation at Altitude programme, and in collaboration with various regional partners, so far have we have held successful workshops seeking to better understand the interdisciplinary 'data landscape' in several mountainous regions, namely the Carpathians, AndesCaucasus and Central Asia. If you are active in any of these regions and have still not completed the corresponding suvey, please kindly consider doing so by following the links provided. The corresponding sessions for Africa and the Hindu Kush Himalaya are planned for early 2022. We hope that the relationships GEO Mountain is able to forge and strengthen with key regional organisations and individuals during these sessions will develop into long lasting and mutually supportive partnerships.

New projects and external roles

GEO Mountains is one of the participants of the newly funded EU project IMPETUS. Specifically, we will work alongside EURAC Research on the 'mountainous' test region. Starting from 2022, GEO Mountains will also be involved in the new IACS/WMO/MRI Joint Body on the Status of Mountain Snow Cover, as well as the Mountains Expert Group of the eLTER. Finally, we are pleased to announce that the MRI has been reappointed to the GEO Programme Board for the three-year term 2022 to 2024.

Stay informed!

To discover the latest GEO Mountains news, events, and opportunities for involvement and funding, be sure to subscribe to the Mountain Research Initiative’s Monthly Newsletter, regularly revisit the GEO Mountains website, and follow us on Twitter. We also look forward to seeing you, either virtually or in person, at one of the many conferences we will be attending next year, including the EGU General Assembly 2022 (see here for a confirmed GEO Mountains session) and the International Mountain Conference 2022.

Outlook and closing remarks

In 2022, via the initiation of several GEO Mountains Task Groups, we seek to significantly increase the ease with which our Members / Participants can actively contribute to our Implementation Plan, including by volunteering to lead one the Task Groups. If you are interested in contributing to a Task Group but have not yet been contacted about this, or wish to be involved in GEO Mountains in any other way, please get in touch ( Early career researchers are especially encouraged to become involved!

In closing, we would like to reiterate our thanks to all the contributions made by Members / Participants over the last 12 months, and sincerely hope that many more of you will feel inspired to become involved (or more heavily involved) over the coming year; we are convinced that, by working together as a geographically and disciplinarily diverse network, we can make greater strides than by working more independently – whether that be in installing and maintaining monitoring infrastructure, solving the most pressing and important scientific challenges, or delivering relevant information, knowledge, and skills to environmental managers, policy makers, and other stakeholders.

Equally, we thank our colleagues at the GEO Secretariat, our partner organisations under the Adaptation at Altitude programme (UNEP, CONDESAN, ICIMOD, Sustainable Caucasus, and the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation), and the GEO Focal Point for Switzerland for their continued support.

Next year will be crucial in shaping our post-2022 Implementation Plan. But in the meantime, we wish you all a very peaceful and relaxing break, a happy and prosperous New Year, and look forward to continuing to work closely with many of you in the months and years ahead.

On behalf of the co-leads,

James signature

Dr. James Thornton
GEO Mountains Scientific Project Officer


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