On December 11, the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) made a call for a “global alliance to safeguard the world’s mountains as a vital source of both agricultural and wild biodiversity.” The world’s mountains are a vital source of the Earth’s biodiversity that helps feed all animals, including humans. Several crops and species of animals eaten by millions of humans worldwide either have their origin or much of their development in mountains. This list includes potatoes, tomatoes, many species of fruits and nuts and animals such as sheep, goats, yaks, llamas and alpaca, all of which are important to human populations worldwide as a source of food and a part of culture.

On International Mountain Day 2006, FAO Forest Resources Division Director José Antonio Prado said that “The intensive use of resources by humans puts this unique biological and cultural heritage at risk of extinction,” and Alemneh Dejene, Senior Officer for FAO Environment and Natural Resources Services, added “Mountain biodiversity is vital for soil stability, fresh water, food, and medicinal plants for everyone.”

In order to protect mountains adequately, the FAO suggested the following:

1) Establishing protected areas where local populations are engaged in the stewardship of wild and semi-wild biodiversity.
2) Conserving landscapes, where biodiversity is maintained in and around sustainable mountain agro-ecosystems, often with intensive but diversified agriculture.
3) Payment for environmental services to local populations in recognition of their role as custodians of the environment and its unique agricultural biodiversity.

Peter Broady

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