New paper identifies ‘bridges’ between resilience origins, data methods, mountain research, and co-design with local communities.
‘Mountain Resilience: A systemic literature review and paths to the future’, published today by Mountain Research and Development (MRD), provides a comprehensive overview of the scientific literature in English on resilience-related topics in mountain areas. This is the first time a review of this kind has been done specifically in relation to mountains.
The paper is a key output of the MRI Mountain Resilience Working Group, co-led by Tobias Luthe (ETH Zurich / AHO Oslo / Monviso Institute, Italy) and Romano Wyss (Romano Wyss (independant scholar and external lecturer at EPFL, Switzerland). Wyss and Luthe are co-lead authors of the paper along with Lydia Pedoth (Eurac Research, Italy) and Stefan Schneiderbauer (Eurac Research, Italy) with support from the 11 other working group members.
“We had the initial idea for this paper when we established the working group at the 2019 International Mountain Conference,” said Wyss. “We wanted to look at the literature and take stock of what we know in terms of ‘resilience’ in mountain areas, which wasn’t clear at the time. Everyone contributed their time and expertise, making it a very positive first experience as a working group, even during the pandemic where we could only connect virtually.”
Going Beyond Shock Absorption
The paper identifies key pillars of the resilience discourse. The authors explore what resilience can mean in different contexts with respect to different topic areas – and the challenge to bridge these understandings.
“There’s a general sense of resilience being about ‘getting back to where you were before,’” said Luthe. “Whereas we found that resilience is really about going beyond that shock absorption and transforming a setting or system to make the community stronger, as both more adaptive and more innovative.”
Using the classic combined qualitative-quantitative approach of the SCOPUS database, the authors identify seven key focus areas of the mountain resilience research discourse with climate change encompassing them all: 1) livelihoods (2) disaster prevention (3) community (engagement) (4) agriculture (5) tourism (6) economy and (7) forests. There again the authors discover an opportunity to create a bridge, this time between research methods.
“It was interesting to see the breadth and wealth of what has been worked on already in the last 30 years, from disaster prevention to communication engagement and everything in between,” said Wyss. “What stood out for us during this process was the lack of cross-referencing, not just in academia, but from other fields as well.”
A Basis for Future Mountain Resilience Research
Based on the paper’s review, the authors propose a structured starting point for science-practice interactions and concrete action-based activities to support livelihoods and strengthen resilience in mountain areas. They highlight four research avenues for further exploration: deliberate transformation, mountain-urban synergies, real-world laboratories, and local knowledge. In their view, observing social and ecological change by connecting scientists, practitioners, inhabitants, and visitors will increase the impact of mountain resilience research initiatives.
“We want to move away from a purely technical, scientific reporting of resilience to an approach where one engages with the people who are at the heart of the place (or system) and have built resilience over hundreds of thousands of years,” said Luthe. “It’s really about working with stakeholder groups in mountain areas and integrating community inf future research, adhering to a new kind of holistic engagement as part of co-designing resilience in the real world.”
The paper offers an example of ‘local knowledge’ and ‘warm data’ through community science, where mountain guides can be motivated and enabled to report their impressions from glacier environments, while lay-people can be asked to take photos of environmental hazards and share these documentations with others via online platforms.
Indeed, this is just one avenue where the Mountain Resilience Working Group hopes to go next. There is already discussion on how the research ideas identified in the paper can be done with a global perspective, creating yet another bridge between different mountain regions of the world.
“This paper serves as a great reference tool; one we can always go back to when we need to situate ourselves in the greater context and explore what else we want to do as a working group,” said Wyss. “I think this is an important aspect, not just in terms of what we want to do within the working group, but also with respect to the work with outside partners. The paper provides a sort of compass for all future work in the field.”
As the world grapples with climate change and the ever-mounting pressure on all kinds of systems, there is a clear call for adaptation and transformation. What does this mean for mountain resilience? This is a question that the Mountain Resilience Working Group will continue to explore going forward.
Wyss R., Luthe T., Pedoth L., Schneiderbauer S., Adler C., Apple M., Acosta E. E., Fitzpatrick H., Haider J., Ikizer G., Imperiale A.J., Karanci N., Posch E., Saidmamatov O., T. Thaler. 2022. Mountain Resilience: A Systematic Literature Review and Paths to the Future. Mountain Research and Development, 42(2), A23-A36. https://doi.org/10.1659/MRD-JOURNAL-D-21-00044.1