The characteristic features of mountain forests such as rough topography and steep environmental gradients provide unique habitats hosting high species diversity and diverse ecosystem services. Mountain forests are also crucial sources of wood. Social demand for forest products and services from local mountain people as well as from society outside mountain areas is increasing and puts intense pressure on mountain forest ecosystems. Global warming is changing mountain climates and disturbance regimes in mountain forests. This session will cover social and environmental issues in mountain regions including natural hazards such as avalanches and erosion, risk mitigation, harvesting systems, forest utilization and ecological characteristics. The session aims to identify threats and pressures on mountain forests and mountain people, how mountain forest ecosystems respond to these threats, and forest management approaches to deal with such pressures. We seek empirical as well as modelling studies.
Chair: Prof Pil Sun Park
Mountain forest ecosystems provide a wide range of direct and indirect contributions to the people who live in the mountains and surrounding areas. Occupying steep slopes at high elevation, these ecosystems provide services such as stabilizing slopes, regulating hydrological cycles, maintaining rich biodiversity and supporting the livelihoods of those who are diverse in culture but vulnerable to poverty and food security. To manage these services sustainably, their diverse values must be recognized, assessed and valued. To support this assessment, this paper 1) reviews several tools for assessing the sociocultural, economic and ecological values of mountain forest ecosystem services, 2) demonstrates case studies of tool applications from several countries namely, Bhutan, India, Indonesia, Iran and Nepal, and 3) discusses assessment challenges that should be considered in the application of these tools.
Several challenges exist for the assessment of mountain forest ecosystem services and these must be reflected in assessment design. These challenges include the complexity of defining and classifying ecosystem services; limited availability of data on ecosystem services; uncertainties associated with climate change; complex relationships among services including trade-offs and synergies; and limitation of assessments to build successful payments for ecosystem services.