Mountains are home to 13% of the global population and cover one fifth of the Earth's land surface. Mountains provide essential environmental services to society. Acting as global ‘water towers’, they provide freshwater for populations around the world. 40% of the world’s population relies on mountain water for drinking, irrigation and hydropower. Mountains are unique biodiversity hotspots, including habitats for endangered wildlife species endemic to mountain areas. This biodiversity forms the basis of many of the ecosystem services that humans rely on, including many of the world’s major food crops. Mountain areas are particularly sensitive to the effects of global change, jeopardizing many of the critical goods and services they provide. Climate change in particular poses a major threat to mountain areas. Rapidly melting glaciers and reduced snow cover are increasingly altering river flow regimes; threatening water availability for irrigation agriculture downstream, affecting hydropower production. There is a high probability that changes in temperature and precipitation patterns are increasing the risks of floods, mass movements and other natural hazards that can manifest as disasters. More frequent and intense drought periods will potentially increase the stress on mountain social-ecological systems which are linked with unique cultural and traditional practices and mountain people’s vulnerability to food security.
WMF 2018 aims at building on past achievements and successes and sets to develop scenarios for a thriving mountain future. The government of Kyrgyzstan is privileged to host this prestigious event and looks forward to welcoming its participants in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan.