The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) today called for a global alliance to safeguard the world’s mountains as a vital source of both agricultural and wild biodiversity.
“The intensive use of resources by humans puts this unique biological and cultural heritage at risk of extinction,” FAO Forest Resources Division Director José Antonio Prado said in a statement marking International Mountain Day 2006.
“Safeguarding and managing mountain biodiversity requires a global alliance of international organizations, national governments, civil society, the private sector and, most importantly, mountain populations as stewards and beneficiaries of biodiversity in mountains,” he added.
Mountains make an important contribution to the genetic diversity that feeds the world but are increasingly threatened both by changes in how mountain land is used, including logging, mining, industrialization and tourism, and by global warming.
“Mountain biodiversity is vital for soil stability, fresh water, food, and medicinal plants for everyone,” Alemneh Dejene, Senior Officer for FAO Environment and Natural Resources Services said.
Several crops, such as potatoes, tomatoes, and many species of temperate fruits and nuts as well as a number of domestic animals such as sheep, goats, yaks, llamas and alpaca originated or were largely developed in mountains, which are also important because of their cultural traditions and as a source of food and livelihood for millions.
According to FAO, ensuring that mountains can continue to play their historic, central role in the lives of both high and lowlanders requires a series of concerted initiatives, including the following:
- Establishing protected areas where local populations are engaged in the stewardship of wild and semi-wild biodiversity.
- Conserving landscapes, where biodiversity is maintained in and around sustainable mountain agro-ecosystems, often with intensive but diversified agriculture.
- Payment for environmental services to local populations in recognition of their role as custodians of the environment and its unique agricultural biodiversity.