The Need for International Conservation of Lands Exposed by Deglaciation From Climate Change

Authors: Anaïs Zimmer*, University of Texas - Austin, Timothy beach, University of Texas - Austin
Topics: Human-Environment Geography, Biogeography, Global Change
Keywords: Proglacial socioecological systems, Governance, Adaptation, Climate change
Session Type: Virtual Paper
Day: 4/8/2021
Start / End Time: 3:05 PM / 4:20 PM
Room: Virtual 11
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


Alpine glaciers worldwide will lose most of their volume by the end of the 21st century, placing alpine ecosystems and human populations at risk. This has many negative repercussions, but the new lands that emerge from retreating glaciers provide new opportunities for ecological and social adaptation to climate change. Emerging proglacial areas provide novel landscapes for ecological succession, agriculture, hydroelectric production, exploration for geological resources, and glacier tourism adaptation. One exciting novel opportunity is the development of new conservation and restoration frameworks. Emerging research has emphasized the importance of understanding adaptation around socio-biophysical systems, but efforts connecting the emerging novel proglacial landscape to ecological, social, and cultural conservation opportunities are rare and nascent.
The characteristics of the proglacial landscape reflect the nexus of specific ecosystems and socio-political histories in alpine landscapes. Too often overlooked in glacial-influenced systems, are the interdependencies, feedbacks, and tradeoffs between these biophysical systems and the people who live there. Yet there is no coordinated strategy to manage and anticipate these emerging interdependencies. Indeed, where there is some management, it typically comes from those living outside of the mountains themselves, who may not understand local contexts. Given this emerging challenge, there is a new opportunity to initiate a new conversation and governance structure around these novel mountain landscapes. First, we outline the socio-ecological changes that are occurring in post-glacial landscapes. Second, we highlight the need for integrating Bottom-Up with Top-Down approaches to further the governance and protection of the emerging alpine landscapes and the people living there.

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