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World's Mountains in Danger

The mountainous regions of the world are slowly succumbing to humanity, says a new United Nations report.

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24 percent of the world's surface are mountain regions

The impact of humanity on mountain ranges across the earth will have consequences for people across the world, a new United Nations report says.

First map-based assessment

The report, which was published by the United Nations Environment programme, Unep, last week, says current farming methods are leading to the loss of forests and lands all over the world, methods which speed up erosion and the increasing loss of soil.

This may have serious consequences for people living in mountain regions, but also those living far from any snowy height: One person in two depends on mountain water.

In addition, up to 25 per cent of the world's mountain areas could be seriously affected by roads, mining and pipelines by 2035, and global warming is expected to have further impact on the world's numerous icy peaks, which are already suffering under the climate's higher temperatures.

According to the report - the first map-based assessment of environment change in mountain regions - Africa is the continent worst affected by human pressures: Its mountain's have been seized for agriculture, at least 10 per cent for crops and a further 34 per cent for farming.

Greenland's peaks are expected to be hardest hit by global warming, with 98 per cent seriously affected by 2055.

In addition, parts of the Caucasus, California and the north-west Andes are among those most threatened mountain areas in the world.

Climate change

"This new report highlights how, like so many parts of the world, some of these last wild areas are fast disappearing in the face of agriculture, infrastructure development and other creeping impacts", Former Environment Minister and current Unep Executive Director, Klaus Toepfer, told the BBC.

Klaus Töpfer bei der UNEP (Umweltschutzprogramm der UN) in Genf, Schweiz

"Behind all these is the spectre of climate change, which is already taking its toll on the glaciers and changing plant and animal communities in high altitude areas".

Back to tradition

Among those suggestions to preserve the world's mountain regions is the conversion to traditional farming methods. The report says traditional agricultural systems, like terracing, can be good for these areas, as they help to stabilise the soil. But despite these suggestions, Unep demands change and especially awareness, fast. According to Andrei Iatsenia, the United Nations Environment Programme's mountain programme coordinator, it is more than just a local issue. As around a quarter of the world's land surface are mountain environments, these "deserve the level of concern afforded to other global systems".

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