Between the 18-20 April 2023, the Mountain Research Initiative (MRI), GEO Mountains, the University of Reading, the Central-Asian Regional Glaciological Center under the auspices of UNESCO (CARGC), and the Kazakhstan Institute of Geography and Water Security co-convened a workshop in Almaty, Kazakhstan on the topic of “Mountain Observatories”.  

In 2021, MRI’s Mountain Observatories Working Group published a paper introducing the concept of “Mountain Observatories”, which “identified geographical and thematic gaps as well as recent advances in the monitoring of relevant biophysical and socioeconomic variables in the mountains” and “proposed principles and ways of connecting existing initiatives, supporting emerging areas, and developing new mountain observatory networks regionally and, eventually, globally.” This concept sets the scene and will become a reality at the regional workshop series, outlining the necessary monitoring efforts and how they can be operationalised in these regions.

The workshop represented the inaugural official meeting of the Central Asia Mountain Observatories Network (CAMON). It was also the first in a series of regional workshops that GEO Mountains are undertaking in 2023 under the Adaptation at Altitude Programme

The workshop had several specific aims, as follows:

  • To provide a platform to share experience, knowledge, and capacities across CAMON;
  • To build, or further develop, personal connections
  • To discuss and co-identify joint projects, in particular those related to “new” monitoring and research directions for CAMON sites;
  • To discuss the potential movement towards greater standardisation across CAMON sites (e.g. in terms of variables measured, equipment, protocols, and/or data processing and storage);
  • To identify opportunities for enhanced data exchange between individual CAMON sites, as well as between CAMON (or CAMON sites), National Hydrometeorological Services, and the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) system;
  • To identify opportunities for teaching, training, and Early Career Researchers’ projects to be more fully integrated with CAMON, and;
  • To develop a stronger identity and "combined voice" extending across individual countries and disciplines.

The three-day-long meeting clearly demonstrated that CAMON is already a well-functioning network and, most importantly, has considerable future potential. For example, there is much scope to expand monitoring into areas such as biodiversity and socio-economic aspects around existing infrastructure, and to further enhance other cooperation (for instance with local universities). Participants suggested, inter alia, that glaciological monitoring stations could be readily converted into fully fledged multi-disciplinary observatories, and lab equipment and analytical capabilities could be shared within the network.

The meeting culminated with the signature of a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) by CAMON members. The next steps will be to determine the specific details of those data and capacity sharing possibilities, to develop a stronger web presence for the network, and develop inventories of already existing datasets with a view to sharing / exchange.  

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Cover image by GEO Mountains

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