Mountain wildernesses increasing threatened, UN environment agency reports

23 October 2002

The world’s mountain regions are increasingly under threat as more and more land is converted to farming and grazing, according to a new report produced by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP).

The world’s mountain regions are increasingly under threat as more and more land is converted to farming and grazing, according to a new report produced by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP).

Mountain Watch, the first map-based assessment of environmental change in mountain areas, reveals that almost half of Africa’s mountain regions are estimated to now be “under the plough or the hoof.” An estimated 10 per cent of the continent’s mountain areas have been converted to cropland and 34 per cent turned over to grazing.

Parts of the Caucasus, California and the North-West Andes, in particular the forest ecosystems of the Magdalena Valley in Colombia, are among the most threatened, bio-diversity rich, mountain areas in the world, UNEP says, recommending that they be made conservation priorities.

Apart from Greenland, the region whose mountains appear to be the most pristine is North and Central America, where only an estimated 9 per cent is used for livestock and 5 per cent for crops.

“Our reverence for these unique, wilderness areas has been partly based on their remoteness, their inaccessibility, but 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,” said UNEP Executive Director Klaus Toepfer. “These impacts, these losses, are not just regrettable but threaten the health and well-being of us all.”

Compiled by the UNEP World Conservation Monitoring Centre as a contribution to the International Year of the Mountains, the report will be presented to officials attending the Global Mountain Summit in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan, from 29 October to 1 November.

 

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