Today is International Mountain Day. It’s a day to celebrate what is special about mountain people and the places they live in – and which millions of us visit.
It is a special day for me, as my professional life has focused particularly on mountain areas and, in 2002, the International Year of Mountains, I was involved in drafting the resolution in the UN General Assembly which led to the declaration of International Mountain Day every 11th of December since then.
This year, I had the honour of being asked to advise Guinness World Records about some of the superlatives of mountain areas – such as the highest mountain (which depends on where you measure from), the longest mountain range (which depends on whether you only look on land or under the sea) and the fastest rising mountain (Nanga Parbat in Pakistan). You can find the answers in the new book, ready in time for Christmas, or look online. The Centre for Mountain Studies is now recognised as a partner of Guinness World Records!
Closer to home, there is a meeting at Inverness College UHI today to explore the partnership between the University of the Highlands and Islands and the Wester Ross Biosphere. This is one of 701 biosphere reserves in 124 countries designated by UNESCO – over half are in mountain areas. Biosphere reserves are designated because the people who live in them want to have international recognition for their special places, with a strong identity, and to work together to find ways to move towards sustainable development at the regional scale.
Each biosphere reserve should have a partnership with its local university, providing opportunities for university staff and students to undertake research which is relevant for the people living in the reserve and the environment they live in. The University of the Highlands and Islands is already doing a range of research and is involved in various projects in Wester Ross Biosphere:
- The Centre for Mountain Studies is leading the sustainable heritage areas: partnerships for ecotourism (SHAPE) project, through which Wester Ross Biosphere is developing a destination management plan
- The Rivers and Lochs Institute at Inverness College UHI is working on aquatic biodiversity, particularly of fish species such as Atlantic Salmon, Brown Trout and Arctic Char
- A PhD student at the Centre for History is researching the history of the North Coast 500, which passes through the Wester Ross Biosphere
Today, we hope to identify more opportunities that will contribute to the implementation of the Wester Ross Biosphere’s five-year strategic plan and its aim of bringing people together to work towards the sustainable development of this special area – for today’s and future generations.
Professor Martin Price, Director of the Centre for Mountain Studies at Perth College UHI and Chairholder, UNESCO Chair in Sustainable Mountain Development