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Glaciological characteristics of the ablation zone of Baltoro glacier, Karakoram, Pakistan

Baltoro glacier in the Karakoram, Pakistan, is one of the world’s largest valley glaciers. It drains an area of about 1500km2 and is >60km long. In 2004 an Italian/German expedition carried out a glaciological field program on the ablation zone of the glacier, focusing on the ablation conditions and the dynamic state of the glacier. As Baltoro glacier is a debris-covered glacier, ice ablation also depends on the debris properties. Stake measurements of ice ablation and debris cover in combination with meteorological data from automatic weather stations close by have been used to determine the local melt conditions. Results from these calculations have been combined with an analysis of different classes of surface cover and information about precipitation, using remote-sensing techniques, in order to calculate mass fluxes for the upper part of Baltoro glacier. The dynamic state of the glacier has been investigated by GPS-based surface velocity measurements along the stake network. A comparison of these short-term measurements during the melt season with surface velocities computed from feature tracking of satellite images shows a high seasonal variability of the ice motion. We have shown that this variability is up to 100% of the annual mean velocity. On the basis of these investigations, the mass fluxes at the Concordia cross-section have been quantified. This approach can now be used together with the ablation calculations to reconstruct the variability of glacier extent and volume in the past using available climate data from the central Karakoram. From the comparison of historical measurements and photographs it is shown that the snout of Baltoro glacier is oscillating back and forth a couple of hundred metres. Otherwise it seems not to react with the same magnitude as other glaciers to the climatic change. Elevation changes at Concordia are a few tens of metres at the most

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Supplemental material for “Experience with a hard and soft participatory modeling framework for social-ecological system management in Mt Everest (Nepal) and K2 (Pakistan) protected areas”

High mountains have sensitive social-ecological systems (SESs) characterized by fragility, complexity, and marginality. The local economies of these environments mainly rely on primary production, tourism, and leisure activities; thus human–ecosystem interactions are intricately linked. Many authors stress that this strict relationship must be assisted with a participatory approach involving interested stakeholders in the conceptualization, specification, and synthesis of knowledge and experience into useable information for the express purpose of addressing a problem complex. This paper presents experience garnered with a participatory modeling framework combining hard and soft methodology in 2 case studies: the Sagarmatha National Park and Buffer Zone (Nepal) and the Central Karakoram National Park (Pakistan). The modeling framework was developed based on local stakeholders' demands and needs; it consists of 5 modules, briefly presented here along with their conceptual background. In developing the framework, particular emphasis was given to considering the needs of decision-makers at the local level, rather than simply providing technical solutions to abstract problems. From the development of this modeling process, a need emerged to structure a management-oriented research module in order to generate management knowledge that is both stakeholder-relevant and evidence-based. The application of the framework in the 2 cases studies showed that the modeling can trigger valuable discussion among stakeholders as well as guidance for management-oriented research and feedback loops ensuring validation of knowledge. In addition, the resulting scenarios can help decision-makers in defining pathways for sustainable development in mountain areas, where people's livelihoods are closely dependent on ecosystems. The framework was developed in such a way that it can be replicated in other mountain areas with similar challenges.

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Experience with a Hard and Soft Participatory Modeling Framework for Social-Ecological System Management in Mt Everest (Nepal) and K2 (Pakistan) Protected Areas

High mountains have sensitive social-ecological systems (SESs) characterized by fragility, complexity, and marginality. The local economies of these environments mainly rely on primary production, tourism, and leisure activities; thus human–ecosystem interactions are intricately linked. Many authors stress that this strict relationship must be assisted with a participatory approach involving interested stakeholders in the conceptualization, specification, and synthesis of knowledge and experience into useable information for the express purpose of addressing a problem complex. This paper presents experience garnered with a participatory modeling framework combining hard and soft methodology in 2 case studies: the Sagarmatha National Park and Buffer Zone (Nepal) and the Central Karakoram National Park (Pakistan). The modeling framework was developed based on local stakeholders' demands and needs; it consists of 5 modules, briefly presented here along with their conceptual background. In developing the framework, particular emphasis was given to considering the needs of decision-makers at the local level, rather than simply providing technical solutions to abstract problems. From the development of this modeling process, a need emerged to structure a management-oriented research module in order to generate management knowledge that is both stakeholder-relevant and evidence-based. The application of the framework in the 2 cases studies showed that the modeling can trigger valuable discussion among stakeholders as well as guidance for management-oriented research and feedback loops ensuring validation of knowledge. In addition, the resulting scenarios can help decision-makers in defining pathways for sustainable development in mountain areas, where people's livelihoods are closely dependent on ecosystems. The framework was developed in such a way that it can be replicated in other mountain areas with similar challenges.

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Methodologies and Tools for the Management of Mountain Protected Areas: Mount Everest (Nepal, China) and K2 (Pakistan) Regions

Special Issue: Methodologies and Tools for the Management of Mountain Protected Areas: Mount Everest (Nepal, China) and K2 (Pakistan) Regions.

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Verification of numerical model forecasts of precipitation and satellite-derived rainfall estimates over the Indian region: monsoon 2004

This work describes the preliminary results of a study aimed at: (1) assessing the ability of a general circulation model routinely run at the Epson Meteo Centre (CEM) in predicting daily rainfall; (2) evaluating the performance of satellite-derived precipitation estimates (namely, NOAA CPC CMORPH) over the same domain and during the same period. The CPC daily rain gauge analysis is used as reference for validation. The study focused on the Indian Monsoon during summer 2004, and comparison with a similar analysis at the mid-latitudes is also shown.

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An Integrated Decision Support Toolbox (DST) for the Management of Mountain Protected Areas

New tools and methodologies are required in systemic planning and management of mountain protected areas. Among others we propose here a decision support toolbox (DST) conceived as an integrated collection of both soft and hard system methodologies, consisting of participatory and computer-based modules to provide a set of integrated, self-contained tools and approaches to support decision-making processes in the management of mountain protected areas. The Sagarmatha National Park and Buffer Zone (SNPBZ) in Nepal was taken as a pilot case. A number of participatory exercises such as participatory 3-dimensional modeling, scenario planning, and qualitative modeling were carried out to understand social-ecological processes and generate a systemic view over space and time. The qualitative models were then converted into computer-based system dynamics models. The design and development of DST software were carried out with an incremental and modular approach. This process involved stakeholder analysis and decision-making processes through a series of consultations. The software was developed with the main modules including scenario analysis, spatial analysis, and knowledge base. The scenario analysis module runs system dynamics models built in Simile software and provides functions to link them with spatial data for model inputs and outputs. The spatial analysis module provides the basic geographic information system functions to explore, edit, analyze, and visualize spatial information. The knowledge base module was developed as a metadata management system for different categories of information such as spatial data, bibliography, research data, and models. The development of DST software, especially system dynamics modeling and its linkage with spatial components, provided an important methodological approach for spatial and temporal integration. Furthermore, training and interactions with park managers and concerned stakeholders showed that DST is a useful platform for integrating data and information and better understanding ecosystem behavior as a basis for management decisions.

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Effect of the extreme summer heat waves on isolated populations of two orophitic plants in the north Apennines (Italy)

One of the lesser known effects of global climate change is the occurrence of heat waves. Climatic models predict that heat waves will become more intense, longer lasting and/or more frequent, as a consequence of the increased inter-annual variability and increased average values of summer temperatures. Plants are damaged by heat waves through direct effects of extreme temperatures influencing plant physiology and through indirect effects, like drought and exposure to high ozone concentration. This study investigates the flowering abundance and biomass production of two orophytic species, Alopecurus alpinus Vill. and Vicia cusnae Foggi et Ricceri following the heat wave that occurred in the summer of 2003 and analyses the effects of summer temperatures during the period 1999–2004 on the species reproductive performance. In 2003, we observed a significant decrease in the number of flowering stems and flowers per flowering stem for both species. Flower production reached its lowest value in correspondence to the heat wave in 2003 and Redundancy Analysis showed that flower production was related to the mean June temperature. Flower production was more sensitive than vegetative growth, which was maintained. This suggests that changes in reproductive strategies, e.g. changes in the ratio between sexual and clonal reproduction, may occur by as an effect of extreme weather events. Such changes may be of great importance when the population consists of a small number of flowering individuals, as is the case for A. alpinus and V. cusnae in the study area. As a consequence, although the plants generally responded positively to gradual warming, we found that, during the monitoring period 1999–2004, extreme temperatures had a negative effect on A. alpinus and V. cusnae.

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Bronchial asthma and airway hyperresponsiveness at high altitude

The mountain climate can modify respiratory function and bronchial responsiveness of asthmatic subjects. Hypoxia, hyperventilation of cold and dry air and physical exertion may worsen asthma or enhance bronchial hyperresponsiveness while a reduction in pollen and pollution may play an important role in reducing bronchial inflammation. At moderate altitude (1,500-2,500 m), the main effect is the absence of allergen and pollutants. We studied bronchial hyperresponsiveness to both hyposmolar aerosol and methacholine at sea level (SL) and at high altitude (HA; 5,050 m) in 11 adult subjects (23-48 years old, 8 atopic, 3 nonatopic) affected by mild asthma. Basal FEV1 at SL and HA were not different (p = 0.09), whereas the decrease in FEV1 induced by the challenge was significantly higher at SL than at HA. (1) Hyposmolar aerosol: at SL the mean FEV1 decreased by 28% from 4.32 to 3.11 liters; at 5,050 m by 7.2% from 4.41 to 4.1 liters (p < 0.001). (2) Methacholine challenge: at SL PD20-FEV1 was 700 micrograms and at HA > 1,600 micrograms (p < 0.005). In 3 asthmatic and 5 nonasthmatic subjects plasma levels of cortisol were also measured. The mean value at SL was 265 nmol and 601 nmol at HA (p < 0.005). We suppose that the reduction in bronchial response might be mainly related to the protective role carried out by the higher levels of cortisol and, as already known, catecholamines.

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Continuous measurements of aerosol physical parameters at the Mt. Cimone GAW Station (2165 m asl, Italy)

Particle size distribution in the range 0.3 < Dp < 20 µm, has been analysed from August 2002 to July 2006 at the GAW Station of Mt. Cimone (44.10 N, 10.42 E; 2165 m asl) in the northern Italian Apennines. The seasonal aerosol number size distribution, characterized by a bimodal shape, showed a behaviour typical for background conditions, characterized by highest values in summer and lowest in winter. The seasonal and diurnal variations of the larger accumulation mode (0.3 < Dp < 1 µm average values: 26.15 cm- 3) and the coarse mode (1 < Dp < 20 µm, average value: 0.17 cm-3) particle number concentrations (N0.3–1 and N1–20, respectively) exhibited a seasonal cycle with the highest values in spring–summer and the lowest value in autumn–winter. Except in winter, N0.3–1 showed a clear diurnal variation with high values during day-time. N1–20 showed a less marked diurnal variation (but with higher variability), suggesting the influence of non-continuous sources of coarse particle (i.e. Saharan dust events). Since July 2005, continuous measurement of black carbon (BC) concentrations was also available at the measurement site. On average low BC concentrations were recorded (average value: 0.28 µg m-3) even if a few events of high concentrations were recorded both in warm and cold season. Apart from wet scavenging processes which strongly affected aerosol concentrations, combined analysis of N0.3–1, BC, meteorological parameters and air mass back-trajectories, suggests that the transport of polluted air masses from the lower troposphere (by local, regional or long-range transport) represents an important mechanism favouring N0.3–1 and BC increases at Mt. Cimone. In particular, a trajectory statistical analysis for the period July 2005–July 2006 allowed the identification of the main source regions of BC and N0.3–1 for Mt. Cimone: north Italy, west Europe and east Europe.

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High-altitude exposure reduces inspiratory muscle strength.

It was the aim of the study to assess the maximal pressure generated by the inspiratory muscles (MIP) during exposure to different levels of altitude (i.e., hypobaric hypoxia). Eight lowlanders (2 females and 6 males), aged 27 - 46 years, participated in the study. After being evaluated at sea level, the subjects spent seven days at altitudes of more than 3000 metres. On the first day, they rode in a cable car from 1200 to 3200 metres and performed the first test after 45 - 60 minutes rest; they then walked for two hours to a mountain refuge at 3600 metres, where they spent three nights (days 2 - 3); on day 4, they walked for four hours over a glacier to reach Capanna Regina Margherita (4559 m), where they spent days 5 - 7. MIP, flow-volume curve and SpO (2) % were measured at each altitude, and acute mountain sickness (Lake Louise score) was recorded. Increasing altitude led to a significant decrease in resting SpO (2) % (from 98 % to 80 %) and MIP (from 134 to 111 cmH (2)O) (baseline to day 4: p < 0.05); there was an improvement in SpO (2) % and a slight increase in MIP during the subsequent days at the same altitude. Expiratory (but not inspiratory) flows increased, and forced vital capacity and FEF (75) decreased at higher altitudes. We conclude that exposure to high altitude hypoxia reduces the strength of the respiratory muscles, as demonstrated by the reduction in MIP and the lack of an increase in peak inspiratory flows. This reduction is more marked during the first days of exposure to the same altitude, and tends to recover during the acclimatisation process.

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