“Earth and sky, woods and fields, lakes and rivers, the mountain and the sea, are excellent schoolmasters, and teach some of us more than we could learn from books.”
SUILVEN, WEST SUTHERLAND, SCOTLAND
"Mountain species with narrow habitat tolerance, particularly higher elevation forms and those with low dispersal capacity, are at high risk from the environmental effects of climate change. Slope dynamics and livestock grazing are significant drivers of diversity in many alpine regions. Flower-rich alpine meadows are an important cultural heritage that is increasingly threatened as traditional grazing practices decline."
CONVENTION ON BIOLOGICAL DIVERSITY
I am incredibly fortunate to have grown up in Scotland, living in a house on a hill up a mile long farm track with views for miles and windows that rattled all night in the wind. It was a magical place to live, a place where dreams felt real.
My father was (and still is, despite having qualified for a free bus pass several years ago) a keen mountaineer. Holidays were often spent on the West Coast of Scotland, in an equally remote cottage with sheep that poked their heads in the front door if you forgot to close the latch and a rusty old wheelbarrow at the top of the potholed (crater-esque) track to transport bags from car to cottage.
It was GLORIOUS. I was obsessed with the Highland Clearances and evidence of this era lay all around.
At the age of four I tackled my first Munro. Equipped with my trusty red wellington boots and with my mother’s pockets stuffed with mini Mars bar bribes, I climbed Ben More. A cool 1,174 meters, it has been described as follows:
"The summit of Ben More is a steep sided triangular pyramid with crags mainly restricted to its SE face. There are short steep ridges, NW to Benmore Farm offering an unrelenting route for masochists..."
Say no more.
“I like the mountains because they make me feel small ...They help me sort out what’s important in life.”
The above quote resonates with me. The mountains hold a hypnotising power that brings a person closer to touching the very soul of the universe.
Mountain ecosystems play a key role in biological diversity.
"Mountain environments cover some 27% of the world’s land surface, and directly support the 22% of the world’s people who live within mountain regions. Lowland people also depend on mountain environments for a wide range of goods and services, including water, energy, timber, biodiversity maintenance, and opportunities for recreation and spiritual renewal. Mountains provide for the freshwater needs of more than half of humanity, and are, in effect, the water towers of the world.
The world’s mountains encompass some of the most spectacular landscapes, a great diversity of species and habitat types, and distinctive human communities. Mountains occur on all continents, in all latitude zones, and within all the world’s principal biome types – from hyper-arid hot desert and tropical forest to arid polar icecaps – and support a wide variety of ecosystems. Mountain ecosystems are important for biological diversity, particularly in the tropics and warmer temperate latitudes. Isolated mountain blocks are often rich in endemic species. As noted in the report of the Secretary-General of the United Nations when he proclaimed 2002 as the “International Year of Mountains," mountains harbour a significant portion of distinct ethnic groups, varied remnants of cultural traditions, environmental knowledge and habitat adaptations. They host some of the world’s most complex agro-cultural gene pools and traditional management practices.
Mountain biodiversity plays a key role in the support of global environmental, economic, social and cultural sectors through connections to; invasive species, air pollution, climate change, mining, hydropower, tourism, forests, agriculture.
Therefore the challenge is to sustainably manage mountain regions to avoid degradation and avoid subsequent increases in poverty and hunger."
CONVENTION ON BIOLOGICAL DIVERSITY
To enjoy the wealth of beauty our world offers us, we must learn to respect the earth that we walk on and the air that we breathe. I think we forget at times that we are not the only ones breathing this air.
The mountains are staggeringly powerful gentle giants. Let's celebrate them on #internationalmountainday and protect them always. 🖤