GLOBAL OBSERVATION RESEARCH INITIATIVE IN ALPINE ENVIRONMENTS

A brief history of GLORIA

  • 1996: Recognising the significance of mountain regions for global change research, the core projects BAHC, GCTE of the International Geosphere-Biosphere Programme (IGBP), together with START/SASCOM, organised a workshop in Kathmandu in 1996. At this workshop, the urgent demand for a comparative observation network in mountain ecosystems on a global scale was emphasised.
  • In 1997, an Austrian IGBP/GCTE research initiative, led by Prof. Grabherr, Institute of Ecology and Conservation Biology at the University of Vienna, developed a concept for such a network as a contribution to the IGBP Mountain Workplan. This concept was first presented at the European Conference on Environmental and Societal Change in Mountain Regions in Oxford, December 1997. Two approaches, the Single-Mountain and the Multi-Summit Approach were presented. The first suggested studies on various spatial scales on selected slope systems, including monitoring along transects and experimental components. The Multi-Summit Approach focused on summit areas of different altitudes in a region. Cross-regional comparisons of biodiversity patterns along the fundamental climatic gradients (latitude, longitude, altitude) should be enabled through a large number of summit sites.
  • In 1998 and 1999, a sampling design for the Multi-Summit Approach was developed and tested in the field in contrasting climate regions (NE-Alps/Austria and Sierra Nevada/Spain). This was supported by the Austrian Academy of Sciences from the national IGBP budget. The priority was given to the Multi-Summit Approach because it can be applied in a time- and cost-efficient manner, at a large number of sites, including remote areas.
  • In 1999, the Austrian Federal Ministry of Education, Science and Culture launched a feasibility study on how to extend the research initiative to a global observation network in alpine environments. In addition to this study, a call for contributions was made. Almost 100 experts expressed their particular interest in such a network and, hence, the acronym GLORIA – the GLobal Observation Research Initiative in Alpine environments was coined.
  • In 2000, GLORIA was presented to an international auditorium at the First International Conference on Mountain Biodiversity in Rigi/Kaltbad, Switzerland, which was the launch event of the Global Mountain Biodiversity Assessment (GMBA) and the beginning of a co-operation between GLORIA and the GMBA.
  • In January 2001, GLORIA-Europe (EVK2-CT-2000-00056), a research project in the 5th RTD framework programme of the EU, started with 18 target regions in mountain areas of 13 European countries. This project was a contribution to the Global Terrestrial Observing System (GTOS) as a pilot study towards the world-wide implementation of GLORIA.
  • In autumn 2003, the final report of the successfully operation GLORIA-Europe project was submitted to the European Commission. A first continent-wide long-term monitoring network in alpine environments, based on a standardised and well-tested method, is established. The first GLORIA sites outside of Europe were setup in the western USA, Peru and New Zealand in 2002 and 2003.
  • In 2004, GLORIA contributed to two new projects of 6th RTD Framework Programme of the European Union: the 'Specific Support Action' GLOCHAMORE (GOCE-CT-2003-506679) with interdisciplinary workshops on monitoring, modelling and process studies in mountain regions, and the 'Integrated Project' ALARM (GOCE-CT-2003-506675) focusing on large-scale modelling of environmental risks.
    In the same year,the number of active GLORIA target region has shifted from the 18 GLORIA-Europe regions to 28 target regions, including six target regions outside of Europe. In parallel, the idea of a network of GLORIA Master Sites (i.e. the initially planned Single Mountain approach) was further developed through the integration of existing research infrastructure.
  • 2005: A co-operation with UNESCO-MaB resulted in the establishment of GLORIA target regions within Biosphere Reserves in Chile, Peru, and in the Russian Altai Mountains. This work was, further, supported by the Austrian Federal Agricultural and Environmental Ministry and by the Austrian Academy of Sciences through the national MaB budget. In summer 2005, first target regions in SW-China were selected and setup in a co-operation among local institutions in Yunnan, the Missouri Botanical Garden, and The Nature Conservancy.
  • 2006: By end of 2006, the network consisted of 47 target regions and more than 50 research teams, distributed over 5 continents. In North America, where observation sites were established in 8 regions, by then, the network was fostered through CIRMOUNT - a climate change network for U.S. and Canadian mountain researchers. One GLORIA Master Site in the Alps and two in western North America were established:
    (1) Mount Schrankogel, Tyrol, Austria, where GLORIA-related research dates back to 1994, and
    (2) White Mountains, California, USA, launched in summer 2006, based on existing facilities of the University of California.
    (3) Glacier National Park, Montana, USA, based on extensive previous research and modelling of ecological climate change impacts.
    In summer 2006, an international workshop was held in the north-eastern Alps, focusing on further developing monitoring methods and for planning upcoming resurvey activities.
  • 2007: In preparation for the GLORIA Europe resurvey in 2008 an extensive field-testing campaign was conducted in the calcareous Hochschwab region (Austria) and the siliceous High Tatra (Slovakia) in summer 2007, aiming at optimising the re-recording strategy and to assess the observer variation at species cover recording. Data from the GLORIA master site Schrankogel (Tyrol, Austria) provided first evidence of a climate change-induced species decline at the alpine-nival ecotone, published in Global Change Biology. In November an international GLORIA workshop for the tropical and subtropical Andes took place in Bolivia.
  • 2008: The Europe-wide GLORIA reinvestigation was carried out in 18 target regions distributed across the continent from southern Spain to the Polar Urals, seven years after the baseline recording. Besides the 'blind' re-recording in the 1m x 1m quadrats and in the summit area sections, various approaches of checking vegetation changes in the field were tested through plot/photo and data comparisons. A new method, developed by Californian GLORIA colleagues, using a line-pointing approach in 10m x 10m squares in each cardinal direction per summit site was applied as supplementary method in many of the European sites. For capturing the full vertical range of mountain plants, downslope transects surveys from the highest summit sites down to the upper forest level were developed in California and also applied at some sites in the Alps. At the master site Schrankogel (Tyrol, Austria) a new project dealing with sensitive snow and vegetation limits started.
    The international GLORIA network extended at an unabated pace and reached the number of 60 active sites (target regions), including the so far northernmost on the eastern side of Greenland (Zackenberg).
  • 2009: In the course of the analysis of the GLORIA Europe data, an altitudinal rank system was developed to classify species by their main altitudinal distribution patterns. Changes in the vertical species ranges should be indicative for climate-induced species migrations. In this context, a cooperation with the European Environment Agengy and the Topic Centre on Biological Diversity (Paris) commenced on developing biotic climate change-impact indicators for the pan-European Inititative SEBI 2010 (Streamlining European 2010 Biodiversity Indicators). On the Master Site Schrankogel, Tyrol, two automatic cameras to detect local snow patterns were installed in 3100m. The GLORIA network gained 16 new target regions.
  • 2010: The GLORIA conference in Perth, Scotland (September 23 - 26) was the largest international GLORIA meeting so far, where 83 representatives of 34 countries participated. The event greatly depicted the network's role, its global dimension as well as the mutual stimulation and co-operation across the various working groups. A main objective of the meeting was also to discuss and agree upon the basic minimum standards for the global GLORIA protocol and about ways of data sharing for analyses. Moreover, already ongoing additional activities were introduced and discussed.
  • 2011: In 2011 the GLORIA network exceeded 100 target regions. Due to the establishment of three sites in Africa (Ruwenzori, Mt. Elgon, High Atlas) the network now is distributed over six continents.
  • 2012: A pan-European study published in Nature Climate Change showed an increase of thermophilic species on Europe's summits while cold-adapted species have declined. Strikingly, this thermophilization of mountain vegetation even was significant in the very short time period of only seven years. A second study on European GLORIA data, published in Science, provided evidence that climate change affects Europe’s mountain vegetation differently, depending on the major climate zone. While boreal and temperate mountain summits experienced a mean increase of +3.9 species the number of species in Mediterranean regions decreased by -1.4 on average. This could be explained by combined effects of higher aridity and decreasing precipitation.
    Georg Grabherr is ''Scientist of the year 2012'', awarded by the Austrian educational and science journalists, especially also due to the efforts in GLORIA.
  • 2013: The GLORIA coordination was institutionally reorganized and is affiliated to the Austrian Academy of Sciences (ÖAW, Institute for Interdisciplinary Mountain Research) and the University of Natural Resources and Life Sciences (BOKU, Center for Global Change and Sustainability). The coordination team continues to operate from one head quarter in Vienna, which will shift from the University of Vienna to BOKU-University in 2014.
    The annually organised workshop of GLORIA-Andes, this year in Quito, Ecuador, focused on data handling and comparative analysis approaches for the tropical and subtropical Andes. The event included the presentation of a thoroughly prepared book on GLORIA-Andes through CONDESAN, representatives of the Comunidad Andina and the vice-environmental minister of Ecuador.
  • 2014: The GLORIA site-setup is planned to be strengthened in the wider Himalaya-Hindu Kush region through an integration into extensive long-term monitoring activities of ICIMOD and partner institutions in the region, as was discussed at an expert workshop in Chengdu, China. In addition, first sites in the Pamir and Tian Shan are in the planning stage.
    July 2014: Strong GLORIA involvement in the Global Fair and Workshop on Mountain Observatories in Reno, Nevada, USA, which a series of presentation and workshops on recent monitoring results and on additional activities.
    August 2014: Second resurvey on Schrankogel, 20 years after establishing the GLORIA master site, including soil microbiological studies and baseline recording of collembolas and orobatid mites along an elevation gradient across the alpine-nival ecotone.
    September 2014: Revisitations of historical summit sites in Ötztaler Alpen, Tyrol, followed by a Europe-wide cooperation (led by SLF Davos) on comparing GLORIA and revisitation data from historical sites.
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