"Mountains – a fragile source of life” is a series of short films where AXA Professor Dirk Schmeller explores different aspects of mountains and why they are important for human society. Pr. Schmeller discusses the threats of climate change and pollution, the functioning of mountain freshwater ecosystems, the importance of microbiomes, and provides insights in his team’s research.
For many, Mountains are the go-to place to reconnect to Nature, to relax and to enjoy a clean environment and fresh air. Mountains also provide us with many important goods, which we need for our daily lives and our health. Those goods include construction wood, fire wood, pastures for livestock, clean drinking water and clean air, among others.
All these goods are provided by mountain ecosystems, through complex processes, that are maintained by the community of different species and their interactions between them and with the abiotic environment. Those species are numerous. They comprise invisible microorganisms, tiny plankton species, small plants, trees, cryptic reptiles and amphibians, swift birds, and mammals. Altogether, those species produce organic matter, bind CO2, and produce oxygen. They destruct, rebuild, change, and shape the environment in so complex interactions that they are difficult to imagine.
Generally, mountains are considered remote areas. We imagine them generally intact, little impacted by humans, and with no pollution. Unfortunately, this is not true. Human activities like mining, livestock, energy production and tourism impact on Mountains. Human activities pollute mountains, change them, and change the complex interaction network of the species communities living there. Mountains are very fragile environments and are among the regions that are most sensitive to climate change and to the impacts of human activities. They need protection, urgently.
The project GloMEc I run, funded by the AXA Research Fund, will contribute to our understanding of mountain freshwater ecosystems, the services they provide to human society and the risks we face with future changes of these sensitive ecosystems. We will investigate patterns of pollution, pathogens, microorganisms and global changes in mountain ecosystems to understand the interlinkages between biodiversity change, ecosystem health and human well-being.
Decision makers and stakeholders need to understand that even the most remote areas are strongly threatened by the dominant species of our planet, us.
Pr. Dirk Schmeller is a researcher, based at ENSAT at the Institut National Polytechnique in Toulouse. He notably works on wildlife diseases, biodiversity and the social aspects of conservation. For the past three years, he has coordinated the Belmont-Forum P3 project on mountain ecosystems. AXA Chair in Functional Mountain Ecology, EcoLab, ENSAT – Institut National Polytechnique (Toulouse), France (2019-2024)Read more about his research