A significant proportion of the global population depends on crucial goods and services provided by mountain and boreal regions, including fresh water (for domestic use, irrigation and hydropower), raw materials, and recreation. However, mountain regions all over the world are facing multiple challenges due to environmental and socio-economic changes with related impacts on human livelihood, economy, and ecosystems. Mountain ecosystems belong to the most endangered ecosystems in the world and accelerating climate change leads to melting glaciers, reduced permafrost areas, changing streamflow, vegetation shifts and natural hazards. Extensive land-use changes in the past as well as ongoing land transformations affect biogeochemical cycles and alter landscape patterns with broadly unknown feedback mechanisms and interactions with climate change. Moreover, the development of tourism, especially in mountain areas, may contribute to economic welfare but has wide-ranging effects on social-ecological systems, which have developed over centuries. These current developments will result in altered landscapes in the future and a change in the provision of crucial ecosystem services. Here, local initiatives cannot face challenges for mountain people and resources alone, but these must be supported by measures and regulators at different levels of government to assure sustainability (resilience) of ecosystem services provision. In this context, the ecosystem services approach may play a role in the management of protected areas, but there are still many open questions related to specific methods and indicators to assess and evaluate ecosystem services in protected areas and how the ecosystem services approach can support biodiversity conservation including present and futures scenarios in the light of disturbances, pressures and changes.

Special Issue Contents

This Special Issue aims at addressing important knowledge gaps focusing on basic understanding of ecological functions and its drivers of change in mountain landscapes as well as on societal trends in and outside mountain regions to be able to scope with future challenges. A particular focus is set on protected areas that are interested in the management and the preservation of the biodiversity and the landscapes, through scientific research, environmental education, and the promotion and the development of sustainable tourism.

We welcome contributions that address one or more of the following key questions:

  • Which current and future landscape dynamics, ecological impacts driven by global change, as well as societal trends and tendencies can be expected?
  • How will future environmental and socio-economic evolutions affect the mountain landscape and associated ecosystem services?
  • How can we scope with upcoming environmental and socio-economic challenges in mountain regions and, in particular, in protected areas?
  • Which novel indicators, methods and tools are necessary to better evaluate the services and benefits from mountain ecosystems, to understand the functioning of social-ecological systems and to assess the influence of drivers of change across spatial and temporal scales?
  • How can we stimulate the discussion for a sustainable use of the natural resources and implement sustainable solutions?

Editorial team and contact information

Uta Schirpke, University of Innsbruck, Department of Ecology; Eurac Research, Institute for Alpine Environment,

Genxu Wang, Institute of Mountain Hazards and Environment, Chinese Academy of Sciences,

Emilio Padoa-Schioppa, University of Milano-Bicocca,

Important date:

Submission deadline: 30 November 2019