Sunday, August 29, 2021 - 12:14pm

Results of the Mountain Symposium within the 34th International Geographical Congress, Istanbul

(August 16-20, 2021)

Alexey Gunya and Fausto Sarmiento


The 34th International Geographical Congress was held online during August 16th to 20th, 2021. The composition of participants and the topics reflected the current state of geography, which is influenced by global trends: environmental change under the influence of climate, difussion of digital technologies into all spheres of life, pandemics, migration crises, etc. The main topic of the congress is devoted to consolidation of humanity in the face of global problems and creation of "bridges between continents".

In his keynote lecture, prof. Mike Meadows called geography the “science of sustainability”, and the core of geography “the study of the relationship between humans and the environment”. In his opinion, the advantage of geography over other sciences is shown in the following areas: 1) hazard and risk research, 2) human impact studies, 3) Earth system science, 4) remote sensing and GIS, 5) environmental history, 6) landscape studies. In many ways, these directions and advantages of geography were expressed in the study of mountains. The results of studies in the world mountainscape were reported in several sections of the program. Of particular note is the International Symposium of Mountain Studies, organized within the framework of the IGU congress, with eleven reports given in three sections.

Three reports were devoted to the development of methodology for mountain research, which is generally demanded by the logic of progression of mountain science - montology. The report of the Chairman of the Mountain Commission, Professor Fausto Sarmiento (USA), was devoted to the issues of practical montology (APPLIED MONTOLOGY: CRITICAL BIOGEOGRAPHY OF ANDEAN TREELINES AND THE HUMBOLDTIAN PARADIGM ON SATOYAMA LANDSCAPES). Montology, as a complex science of mountains, where the issues of the relationship between man and the mountain landscape with all the ensuing consequences (the transformation of mountain ecosystems, the influence of natural and destructive processes, the cultural heritage of mountain peoples and civilizations, etc.) are systematically considered, is a vivid expression of modern trends in geography.

The presentation of Andreas Haller and Domenico Branca (Austria) was devoted to the prospects for studying mountain cityscapes (IDEAS ON URBAN MONTOLOGY: PERIURBANIZATION, VERTICALITY, AND ECOLOGICAL COMPLEMENTARITY IN THE PERUVIAN ANDES). They proposed a new direction of research - urban montology, which, in contrast to classical montology, based on the romance of the wild nature of the highlands or, at best, on the study of the countryside, focuses on the study of dense urban space in the mountains. In contrast to these two reports, based on the achievements in the field of montology, Yuri Golubchikov's (Russia) report (A HOLISTIC APPROACH TO HIGH-LATITUDE AND HIGH-ALTITUDE REGIONS OF THE WORLD) presents the possibilities of combining studies of high-altitude and high-latitude regions of the world within the framework of a new direction in geography - periglacial geography.

Two reports provided an overview of the state of mountain research at the country level (Turkey and China). The Turkish mountains are described in the report by Neslihan Dal and Barbaros Gönençgil (DESCRIPTION OF MOUNTAINS AND MOUNTAINOUS AREAS IN TURKEY). It was emphasized that Turkey is a mountainous country, it is characterized by a wide range of mountain landscapes and development problems inherent in mountainous areas. Barbaros Gönençgil was head of the organizing committee of the congress and is an active member of the IGU Mountain Commission. Review of mountain research in China made by Dunlian Qiu (MOUNTAIN RESEARCH IN CHINA) showed that mountain research in China is represented in many universities and academic institutions, including the Chinese Academy of Sciences. Dunlian Qiu is the editor of one of the world's leading journals for mountain research (Journal of Mountain Science). It should be noted that in the context of dynamic changes in the mountains of the world, such reviews of other mountainous countries would be very useful.

A classic for mountain geography is the theme presented by Lynn Resler (USA) "PHYTOTOPOGRAPHIC INTERACTIONS IN THREE MOUNTAIN ENVIRONMENTS AND POTENTIAL PATHWAYS FOR ECOSYSTEM DEVELOPMENT". By the example of studying alpine vegetation in different regions of the United States, a large variability of changes has been proven. It should be noted that such studies are still the core of mountain geography, which has a connection with Carl Troll’s mountain geoecology. In the same vein, the study “СURRENT TRENDS OF LANDSCAPE/LAND COVER CHANGE OF PROTECTED AREAS OF NORTH CAUCASUS (CASE STUDY OF ALANYA NATIONAL PARK)” (N. Alekseeva, A. Cherkasova, Russia) was carried out. The report emphasized that the main changes in the middle mountains are related to land use transformation, and in the high mountains to climate change.

Transhumance and mountain terrace farming are typical mountain phenomena. It should be noted that their relevance continues to be high. This is evidenced by the announcement of a special issue of the journal Mountain Research and Development announcing the special issue on transhumance. A. Gouny's report (co-authors I. Kerimov, U. Gairabekov, H. Zaburaeva, Z. Gagaeva, Y. Karaev) “CONTEMPORARY TRANSHUMANCE IN THE NORTH CAUCASUS: CHANCES AND RISKS FOR SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT” focuses on the assessment the migration of livestock between high-altitude zones. It was noted that the scale of transhumance has sharply declined over the past 30 years. Modern transhumance is based on family and family-clan forms using traditional and market institutions to regulate grazing.

A report on mountain arable terraces in the Caucasus Mountains (CAUCASUS MOUNTAIN AGRICULTURAL TERRACES) was made by Idris Idrisov (co-authors N. Ryabogina, A. Borisov, Russia). The report noted that agricultural terraces are most widespread in the Eastern Caucasus. They are highly resilient in the landscape and can be used in modern environmental model simulations.

The survival of high-altitude communities focused on the use of niche products was discussed in Sanjeev Poudel’s (Australia) report on “COMMUNITY-BASED MANAGEMENT OF “HIMALAYAN GOLD” (CATERPILLAR FUNGUS) IN REMOTE LANDSCAPES OF DHORPATAN HUNTING RESERVE, NEPAL)”. Local communities, in order to prevent the collection of caterpillar fungus by external collectors, have developed their own rules for access those mountainscapes. Thus, revenues from the sale of the caterpillar fungus are guaranteed and the pressure on mountain ecosystems is reduced.

An important aspect of mountain research related to extreme weather events was discussed in a report by Kenichi Ueno (PERSPECTIVES OF MOUNTAIN STUDIES IN THE COMING WORLD OF EXTREME WEATHER, Japan). The scale of climate change is accompanied by a decrease in the ability of the population to withstand impending risks. The way out of this predicament is education and training, not only according to classical standards, but also the formation of adaptation mechanisms.

The work of the Symposium of Mountain Studies, albeit covering different time zones in the scheduling of presentations, showed that in modern conditions, new approaches, and development of existing concepts for studying mountainous countries, are required. At the meeting of the Mountain Commission of the IGU, held immediately after the Mountain Symposium, the need to give an overview analysis of the state of mountain research in the world was noted, and the need to keep the effort of bringing Mountain Geography to the next level was agreed to organize a similar symposium at the IGU Centennial Congress Paris-2022.  One of the ways to energize the message worldwide was signing a contract for the publication of an edited book series on Montology with Springer-Nature/Switzerland. This is planned based on the preparation and publication of several volumes. The first volume “Montology Palimpsest: A Primer of Mountain Geographies” is scheduled for release next year, and will eventually constitute an updated textbook of Mountain Geography after almost a decade after Price et al. (2013).