Sparking change in mountain biodiversity through youth


A panel of seven youth mountain champions from around the world addressed sustainable mountain development and biodiversity conservation during a web dialogue organised by the Mountain Partnership Secretariat (MPS). Each coming from different sectors and backgrounds, the panelists shared their unique experiences and innovative solutions to kick off action and discussion in the lead up to International Mountain Day 2020. 

In her opening remarks, Davnah Payne of the Global Mountain Biodiversity Assessment provided an overview of why mountain biodiversity matters. "Mountain biodiversity is at the heart of sustainable development," Payne said, connecting its contributions to achieving the Sustainable Development Goals related to eliminating poverty and hunger, ensuring good health and well-being, providing affordable and clean energy, and taking climate action. 

Mountain biodiversity, however, is under threat. Mountain ecosystems are highly vulnerable to land-use changes, and prone to natural hazards and extreme hydrological events, all of which are further aggravated by climate change. "We are here today to take urgent action for mountains because we are stronger together. Our dynamic network can share experiences, solutions, resources and more on mountains and their peoples," said MPS Coordinator Yuka Makino. 

Moderated by Lindsey Hook of the MPS, the panel included: Manjiri Gaikwad, Sustainability and Community Tourism Manager with Global Himalayan Expedition and Mountain Homestays, India; Toka Mosikidi, a master’s student in zoology at the University of the Free State, South Africa; Eleonora De Falcis, Junior Professional Officer at the Bioversity – CIAT Alliance, Italy; Sara Casallas Ramirez, Forest and Water Expert at the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, Colombia; Gustavo Valdivia, anthropologist and filmmaker with CONDESAN, Peru; Jake Burchmore, photographer and alumni of Western Colorado University, United States of America; and Giovanni Ludovico Montagnani, mountain athlete and ecoactivist, Italy.

Each speaker approached the topic of mountain biodiversity from a different angle and had a strong key take home message for the audience: 

  • From the perspective of sustainable tourism and livelihoods, Gaikwad asserted that sustainable tourism can act as a healthy solution to generating livelihoods in fragile ecosystems without negatively impacting the local biodiversity.
  • Speaking from his experience of researching wildlife, Mosikidi urged youth to take ecology and conservation to the next level, and make it multi- and transdisciplinary.
  • With her experience in the areas of small and medium sized enterprises and agri-food competitiveness, De Falcis discussed the need for government actions and market participation to support agrobiodiversity conservation in mountains by providing economic incentives.
  • As an expert in global environmental policy and monitoring of water-related ecosystems, Casallas Ramirez underlined the need to protect, restore and wisely use the ecosystems that support biodiversity in mountain regions to protect it.
  • With his ethnographic background, Valdivia promoted the idea of approaching knowledge production on Andean biodiversity – especially indigenous and local knowledge – more as a creative process than as a rigid application of scientific methods and publication protocols.
  • As a mountain lover, photographer and filmmaker, Burchmore stressed for social media users and influencers to collaborate for conservation, inspiring people to respect nature and not destroy healthy ecosystems by making them go viral.
  • As a person living in mountains and wanting to see their majesty maintained for his children and future generations, Montagnani underlined the need of creating narrative for action, where mountains are treated as a sacred place to visit and live in with respect.

A final intervention was made by Pradeep Mehta, Chairman of the Central Himalayan Institute for Nature & Applied Research, on the state of biodiversity in the Indian Himalaya. There, climate change, habitat destruction, fire, urbanization and other anthropogenic pressures are impacting mountain ecosystems. "The future of mountains is in the hands of mountain youth," said Mehta. 

The web dialogue concluded with closing remarks from Makino and a question and answer segment between participants and panelists. 

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Photo by Tomek Kozlowski

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