Initial development and pilot phase
Recognising the significance of mountain regions for global change research,
a workshop was organised in Kathmandu in the frame of
the core projects BAHC, GCTE of the International Geosphere-Biosphere Programme
(IGBP), together with START/SASCOM.
At this workshop, the urgent demand for a comparative observation network on
biodiversity in mountain ecosystems on a global scale was strongly
emphasised. Prior to the Kathmandu meeting,
first evidence of growing species numbers at high-elevation summit sites
was provided, suggesting that warming effects were already ecologically measurable.
An Austrian IGBP/GCTE research initiative, led by Georg Grabherr, Institute
of Ecology and Conservation Biology at the University of Vienna, developed a
concept for a biodiversity/climate change monitoring network as a contribution
to the IGBP Mountain Workplan, which also led to the Mountain Research Initiative
The 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 located in different elevations
in each study region. Cross-regional comparisons of biodiversity patterns
along the fundamental climatic gradients (latitude, longitude, elevation)
should be enabled through study regions distributed across different biomes and climate zones.
Priority regarding the development of a long-term biodiversity/climate change monitoring programme was given to the Multi-Summit Approach, because it is time- and cost-efficient and can therefore be applied in the required large number of sites and in remote areas. A sampling design for the Multi-Summit Approach was developed and tested in the field in contrasting climate zones (north-eastern Alps/Austria and Sierra Nevada/Spain) with support of the Austrian Academy of Sciences from the national IGBP budget. Simultaneously, the European Science Foundation project
brought together researchers across Europe dealing with alpine biodiversity, which also fostered the development of the long-term monitoring activity.
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. The study involved an international call for contributions, to which almost
100 experts responded by expressing their particular interest in joining such a
network and, hence, the acronym GLORIA – the
Alpine Environments was coined.
GLORIA-Europe project as a model for an internationally operating site-based network
In January, GLORIA-Europe
a project of the 5th RTD framework programme of the EU, started with 18 target regions in mountain
areas of 13 European countries from Spain to Russia. The project which involved 23 partner groups was a
contribution to the Global Terrestrial Observing System (GTOS) as a pilot study towards the
world-wide implementation of GLORIA. This was the starting point for the implementation of
GLORIA across the major mountain systems on a continent-wide level.
Based on the first broad experience with site setup and recording methods
through the GLORIA-Europe project, an international monitoring methods
workshop was held on Tulbinger Kogel, Austria. The meeting was also attended
by colleagues from other continents and focused on the global applicability
and practicability of the GLORIA-Multi-Summit Approach.
As scheduled, the final report
of the successfully operation GLORIA-Europe
project was submitted to the European Commission. Its core achievement was
the implementation of a first continent-wide long-term biodiversity monitoring
network in alpine environments, based on standardised and tested methods. The
first GLORIA sites outside of Europe were setup in the western USA, Peru and
New Zealand in 2002 and 2003.
GLORIA contributed to two new projects of 6th RTD Framework Programme of the
European Union: the 'Specific Support Action'
with interdisciplinary workshops on monitoring, modelling and process studies
in mountain regions, and the
'Integrated Project' ALARM
ocusing on large-scale modelling of environmental risks.
In the same year, the number of active GLORIA target region increased 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.
The implementation of a world-wide biodiversity monitoring network
A cooperation with UNESCO-MAB resulted in the establishment of GLORIA target
regions within Biosphere Reserves in Chile, Peru, and in the Russian Altai
Mountains. Additional support came from the Austrian Federal Agricultural
and Environmental Ministry and the Austrian Academy of Sciences through the
national MAB budget. In summer 2005, first target regions in south-west China
were selected and setup through a cooperation among local institutions in
Yunnan, the Missouri Botanical Garden, and The Nature Conservancy.
The network consisted of 47 target regions and more than 50 research teams,
distributed over five continents. In North America, where observation sites
were now established in eight regions in California and Montana, the network
was fostered through
- 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:
Tyrol, Austria, where GLORIA-related research dates back to 1994,
- White Mountains, California, USA, launched in
summer 2006, based on existing facilities of the University of California,
- Glacier National Park, Montana, USA, based on
previous research and modelling of ecological climate change impacts.
In summer 2006, an international workshop was held on Hochschwab
(north-eastern Alps, Austria), focusing on refining monitoring methods
and for planning upcoming resurvey activities.
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 La Paz and Sajama National Park, Bolivia.
The first Europe-wide GLORIA re-survey 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. 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).
In the course of the analysis of the GLORIA Europe data, an altitudinal rank
system was developed to classify species by their distribution preferences
along the elevation gradient. Changes in the vertical species ranges should
be indicative for climate-induced species migrations. In this context, a
co-operation with the European Environment Agency 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).
The GLORIA network gained 16 new target regions
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
cooperation across the various working groups. Among the main objectives of the
meeting were 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, including the involvement of vertebrates and arthropods, soil
studies, landuse and socio-ecological aspects and ethnobotany, were introduced and discussed.
The GLORIA network exceeded 100 target regions. Due to the establishment of the first sites in Africa
(Ruwenzori, Mt. Elgon; Uganda) the network now is distributed over six continents. A GLORIA
master site study showed the coincidence of the alpine-nival ecotone, as determined by vegetation
patterns, with the summer snow line in the central Alps
(Environmental Research Letters
GLORIA studies yield notable international recognition
A pan-European study published in
Nature Climate Change
showed an increase of more warmth-demanding species and a concurrent decline of cold-adapted
species on Europe's summits. Especially notably is the obviously rapid response of plant communities,
showing a significant "thermophilization" already after a period of only seven years.
A second study on European GLORIA data, published in
provided evidence that climate change affected Europe’s mountain vegetation differently, depending on the major climate zone. While boreal and temperate mountain summits experienced a mean increase in species numbers, the number of species in Mediterranean regions decreased on average. This could be explained by combined effects of higher aridity and decreasing precipitation.
Georg Grabherr, chairperson of GLORIA, is
'Scientist of the year 2012'
awarded by the Austrian educational and science journalists, especially also due to the efforts
in GLORIA. At the same time, tragically, Michael Gottfried, member of the core and founding
team of GLORIA, could not continue his work owing to his sudden illness.
The GLORIA coordination was institutionally reorganized, is now 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). Georg Grabherr
retired as head of GLORIA
after a tour to the USA with GLORIA meetings
and received further notable awards for his scientific work including the efforts in GLORIA. Harald Pauli took over the role as head of the GLORIA coordination.
The international conference 'Higher, faster, More?'
in Bergün, Switzerland, initiated a cooperation with a pan-European summit flora project, dealing with historical study sites.
The annually organised workshop of GLORIA-Andes network
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 an impressive
book of the tropical high mountain sites of GLORIA-Andes
through CONDESAN, representatives of the Comunidad Andina and the vice-environmental minister of Ecuador.
The GLORIA site-setup is intended to be strengthened in the wider Himalaya-Hindu Kush region
through an integration into ambitious long-term monitoring plans of ICIMOD and partner institutions
in the region, as was discussed at an expert workshop in Chengdu, China. GLORIA was strongly
involved in the Global Fair and Workshop on Mountain Observatories in Reno, Nevada, USA, which
included a series of presentations and workshops on recent monitoring results and on additional
In July/August 2014, the second vegetation resurvey on Schrankogel, 20 years after establishing
the GLORIA master site was conducted. The project, funded by the Austrian Climate Research
Programme, also contained soil microbiological investigations and a baseline recording of
collembolas, oribatid mites and surface-dwelling arthropods along an alpine to nival elevation
gradient from 2700m to 3400m. In November, an international workshop
was held at the German Centre for Integrative Biodiversity Research, focusing on combined analyses
of GLORIA data and data series reaching back to century-old investigations on mountain summits.
The GLORIA coordination moved to the new headquarter Silbergasse 30/3 of BOKU and ÖAW in 1190
Besides an enhanced activity on permanent plot resurveys, the network continued to
expand. The largest gain in new sites was in Asia, especially in the Indian
Himalayas and first sites were setup in the Pamir and Tian Shan ranges of
Middle and Central Asia. A major task was the pan-European resurvey campaign,
where most of the European teams participated. Connected to this, an
interdisciplinary Austrian Academy of Sciences project
started with an attempt to disentangle different anthropogenic factors
influencing alpine vegetation under the contrasting climatic conditions in
the Alps and in Mediterranean mountains. GLORIA was well represented at the
major international conference on 'Mountains of Our Future Earth' (Perth,
Scotland, October 2015), with a series of presentations
providing a vivid illustration of the current state of long-term monitoring in mountains from tropical to subarctic mountains.
The 5th fully revised and extended version of the
GLORIA Field Manual
was published in English and Spanish.
Activities to advance the international GLORIA network and programme included
the setup of new sites, such as in the Urals and in the western Himalayas,
resurveys in Yunnan/China, Nepal and in North America, but also additional
approaches such as on plant functional traits and ecological indicator values
of alpine species and the participation in a global soil decomposition
experiment. A pan‐European GLORIA study on aspect preferences on alpine plants
was published in
Journal of Biogeography
Papers on microbial abundance and activity patterns along an alpine-nival gradient were published in in
FEMS Microbiology Ecology
The updated Chinese version of the GLORIA Field Manual was finalised.
A large‐scale study across the tropical Andes, published in
discerned the species compositions of Páramo to northern Argentina. The study
also identified key climatic variables behind the patterns observed, making
this monitoring setting a strong basis for the future detection of
climate‐induced impacts on tropical high‐elevation biota.
international GLORIA workshop in Bogotá
the progress in data analyses and interdisciplinary approaches in the Andes
were presented. In Europe, GLORIA summit sites in the southern Carpathians
(Romania), Rila mountains (Bulgaria), and mountains of northern Greece (Mt.
Olympus and Pindos) were explored and selected in order to fill the largest
gap in Europe. GLORIA colleagues of different continents attended the
international workshop on
Long-term Research in Mountain Areas in Obergurgl