GEOITALY | GI-15 GEO GNOME Initiative: GEO Global Network for Observation and Information in Mountain Environments
GEO-ITALY è un gruppo di coordinamento degli esperti italiani coinvolti nelle attività del Group on Earth Observations
GROUP ON EARTH OBSERVATIONS, GEO, Biodiversity, Disaster, Energy, Mineral, Food security, Infrastructure, Public health, Sustainable urban development, Water resources management
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GI-15 GEO GNOME Initiative: GEO Global Network for Observation and Information in Mountain Environments

Mountains are globally distributed environments producing significant societal benefits. The ability of mountain regions to provide goods and services to both highland and lowland residents is seriously threatened by climatic and environmental changes, large-scale political and socio-economic transformations, unsustainable management of natural resources and serious gaps in the understanding of mountain social-ecological systems. Decisions on policy and investment, from the level of local governments to international agencies, must be based on data, information and knowledge that reflect both the generalities and specificities of mountain regions. In addition, decision makers must confront the paucity of observations in high-altitude regions and the relatively poor level of understanding of mountain social-ecological systems.

The Group on Earth Observations Initiative – Global Network for Observations and Information in Mountain Environments (GEO-GNOME), aims to address the paucity of observation data and information on mountains. GEO-GNOME is working on compiling and providing data, both related to historical conditions and to future projections that support examination of the drivers, conditions and trends at a variety of different scales, from that of a single mountain range to that of the planet as a whole. GEO-GNOME will improve our understanding of mountain regions and therefore sharpen our ability to provide policy and investment relevant advice, particularly in the context of key global policy agendas and their information and knowledge needs, such as monitoring and reporting for the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), and in-line with GEO’s strategic priority engagement and societal benefit areas. GEO-GNOME will create a capacity to combine data and information to meet these emerging policy information needs.

Activities for the period 2017-2019

The overarching logic of the objectives and related activities is to begin with existing datasets, specifically datasets that delineate mountain regions according to different definitions, and then thematic datasets that are either clipped to mountain regions or are non-global legacy datasets pertaining to specific areas or specific themes. These first objectives and tasks provide a platform for mountain-related observations. Focused campaigns related to known issues, such as the investigation of the elevational dependence of climate change, will generate new data and new insights needed to convert data into knowledge and insight into the function of mountain regions. The final tasks anticipate knowledge needs of global policy frameworks to ensure that GEO-GNOME data information can be useful in these new policy frameworks (e.g. SDGs).

Specifically, GEO-GNOME tasks fall under the following objectives (re-defined at May 2018 workshop, see also Adler et al 2018)

Objective 1. Delineate mountain regions using best available data;
Objective 2. Identify data providers and user knowledge needs;
Objective 3. Improve monitoring and understanding of mountain processes;
Objective 4. Cross-cutting Objective – Communicate, link, and develop reporting capacities that respond to policy knowledge needs;

User engagement

With the Mountain Research Initiative (MRI) as a co-lead organisation for GEO-GNOME, and its links to Future Earth, GEO-GNOME also subscribes to the notion of coproduction of knowledge and user engagement. This means, the use of new scientific knowledge in policy or decision-making is enhanced to the extent that policy and decision makers are actively engaged in the creation of that new knowledge. To achieve coproduction within mountain regions, GEO-GNOME will engage policy actors in a formal and on-going consultation process that will provide guidance not only on the nature of the data they need but also their preferred means for accessing data and other technical aspects.

Future plans

To the extent that GEO-GNOME provides a global picture of mountains, especially with respect to investment needs, it will support a variety of global decision-making processes, exemplified by the SDGs and other key global policy contexts. GEO-GNOME’s emphasis on social-ecological systems and especially how they respond to drivers (including policy) as opposed to narrow disciplinary and technical foci, already aligns GEO-GNOME with this policy environment by anticipating the kinds of questions policy makers typically ask. Future plans for GEO-GNOME include the establishment of a GEO-GNOME Secretariat and other coordination activities to focus attention on implementation of objectives and tasks in its current 2-17-2019 work plan.


Specific commitments include:

  • MRI has invested some resources into GEO-GNOME for the current GEO Work Programme 2017-2019, including the facilitation and hosting of a scoping workshop in May 2018, as well as leading and participating in subsequent publications to report on these outcomes and realised objectives so far (see those publications here). Substantial funds for GEO-GNOME are now being budgeted within future funding proposals being coordinated at MRI, particularly for the implementation of GEO-GNOME in the GEO Work Programme 2020-2022 phase. These resources will provide the essential coordination needed for such a network project;
  • The Swiss Development and Cooperation Agency has flagged interest in supporting GEO-GNOME as part of future programmes currently under development, with an expectation that these funds will materialise in time for the next GEO Work Programme phase starting in 2020;
  • The USGS Land Change Science Program has provided support for Objective 1 in 2017-2018, and continues to engage in the development and design of future activities;
  • The EU H2020-funded project ECOPOTENTIAL, coordinated by CNR-DTA, explores the use of Earth observations for the management of ecosystems, with mountain ecosystems as a specific sub-category. It was conceived as a EU contribution to GEO and has contributed in-kind to activities 2 and 3 delineated above;
  • The NextData project, lead by CNR-DTA and ended in December 2018, has also contributed to activities 2 and 3 above through the work of its researchers also involved in GEO-GNOME (in-kind contribution);
  • Tasks to be completed in 2019 depicted under Objectives 2 and 3 are currently funded largely by the participants themselves (in-kind contributions), as well as through small contributions and grants by MRI, Future Earth and the European Space Agency. A key next step for GEO-GNOME in the next GEO WP 2020-2022 will be to use the good offices and venues of GEO to enlist more GEO Member and Participating Organization contributions to the campaigns.
  • Carolina Adler, Mountain Research Initiative (MRI),
  • Elisa Palazzi, Institute of Atmospheric Sciences and Climate (ISAC)-
    National Research Council (CNR),

Members: Austria, Belgium, Brazil, Canada, China, Colombia, Denmark, EC, Ethiopia, France, Italy, Japan, Kazakhstan, Mexico, New Zealand, Pakistan, Russian Federation, Slovakia, South Africa, Switzerland, Uganda, UK, USA.
Participating Organizations: ICIMOD, UNEP, UNOOSA.
Others: Macedonia.

Social Benefit Area
Implementation Mechanism

GEO Candidate Initiatives