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GEO 2017-2019 Work Programme


Geo Global Network for Observation and Information in Mountain Environments (GEO-GNOME)

Activity ID: 117


Mountains are globally distributed environments producing significant societal benefits. The ability of mountain regions to provide goods and services to both highland and lowland residents is seriously threatened by climatic and environmental changes, large-scale political and socio-economic transformations, unsustainable management of natural resources and serious gaps in the understanding of mountain systems. Decisions on policy and investment, from the level of local governments to international agencies, must be based on information and knowledge that reflect both the generalities and specificities of mountain regions. In addition, decision makers must confront the paucity of observations in high-altitude regions and the relatively poor level of understanding of mountain social-ecological systems.

The Group on Earth Observations Initiative – Global Network for Observations and Information in Mountain Environments (GEO-GNOME), will address the paucity of observations and information on mountains. GEO-GNOME will compile and provide data, both related to historical conditions and to future projections that support examination of the drivers, conditions and trends at a variety of different scales, from that of a single mountain range to that of the planet as a whole. GEO-GNOME will improve our understanding of mountain regions and therefore sharpen our ability to provide policy and investment relevant advice. GEO-GNOME will create a capacity to combine data and information to meet emerging, often as-yet unarticulated policy needs.

Activities for the period

The overarching logic of the activities is to begin with existing datasets, specifically datasets that delineate mountain regions, and then thematic datasets that are either clipped to mountain regions or are non-global legacy datasets pertaining to specific areas or specific themes. These first tasks provide a platform for mountain-related observations. Focused campaigns related to known issues will generate new data and new insights needed to convert data into knowledge and insight into the function of mountain regions.  The final tasks anticipate new policy frameworks beyond the historical GEO SBAs to ensure that GEO-GNOME data can be useful in these new policy frameworks (e.g. SDGs).

Specifically, GEO-GNOME tasks fall under the following headings:

  1. Delineating accurately mountain regions using best available data;
  2. Compiling data that quantify ecosystem services, socio-economic measures and drivers arising from or impinging upon mountains;
  3. Improving understanding and foresight through focused campaigns;
  4. Developing an indicator capacity that responds to future policy needs;
  5. Reporting periodically on State of the World’s Mountains.

User engagement

As a network activity involving a wide range of participants, GEO-GNOME already includes actors in mountain governance.  While MRI members are largely drawn from the academic world, they are not necessarily divorced from policy or decision-making. Indeed many are involved in informing policy or decision making exactly because of their status with academy. 

As part of Future Earth, MRI subscribes to the notion of coproduction of knowledge, that is, that the use of new scientific knowledge in policy or decision-making is enhanced to the extent that policy and decision makers are actively engaged in the creation of that new knowledge. To achieve coproduction within mountain regions, GEO-GNOME will engage policy actors in a formal and on-going consultation process  that will provide guidance not only on the nature of the data they need but also their preferred means for accessing data and other technical aspects.

Future plans

To the extent that GEO-GNOME provides a global picture of mountains, especially with respect to investment needs, it will support a variety of global decision making processes, exemplified by the Sustainable Development Goals. However the vast range of pertinent policy or decision making processes exist at regional, national or sub-national levels, and it is difficult to describe a priori all the various contexts in which GEO-GNOME will be used. While GEO-GNOME can anticipate some of these contexts through its initial user survey, it should not expect to anticipate all of them but rather should aim to maximum and open access to the data to promote its discovery and use by different actors. GEO-GNOME’s emphasis on social-ecological systems and especially how they respond to drivers (including policy) as opposed to narrow disciplinary and technical foci, already aligns GEO-GNOME with the policy environment by anticipating the kinds of questions policy makers typically ask.


Specific commitments include:

  • MRI has included a 40% time position and CHF 60,000 in program funds for GEO-GNOME in its next grant proposal to the Swiss National Science Foundation for the 2016-2019 period.  These resources will provide the essential coordination needed for such a network project;
  • The Swiss Development and Cooperation Agency has been requested to reallocate CHF 43,500 in 2016 and 2017 to ensure the completion of Task 1; 
  • The USGS Land Change Science Program has also indicated a strong interest in Task 1 and while the Program has not provided a financial amount, it has committed to active engagement in completing the task;
  • ECOPOTENTIAL is an EU H2020-funded project coordinated by CNR-DTA. It explores the use of Earth observations for the management of ecosystems, with mountain ecosystems as a specific sub-category, and was conceived as a EU contribution to GEO. As such, ECOPOTENTIAL is expected to contribute significantly to Task 2 with its planned mountain-related activities and with the values of its contributions estimated at €1.5 million over the 2017-2019 period;
  • The NextData project leaded by CNR-DTA will likewise contribute to Task 2 with the values of its contributions estimated at €1.5 million over the 2017-2019 period;
  • The targeted campaigns of Task 3 (EDW and GNOMO) are currently funded by the participants themselves (in-kind contributions).  A key next step for GEO-GNOME will be to use the good offices and venues of GEO to enlist more GEO Member and Participating Organization contributions to the campaigns.



Members: Austria, Belgium, Brazil, Canada, China, Colombia, Denmark, EC, Ethiopia, France, Italy, Japan, Kazakhstan, Mexico, New Zealand, Pakistan, Russian Federation, Slovakia, South Africa, Switzerland, Uganda, UK, USA.

Participating Organizations: ICIMOD, UNEP, UNOOSA.

Others: Macedonia.

Linkages across the Work Programme

Initiatives: Earth Observations in Service of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development; GEO ECO.

Leadership & Contributors (this list is being populated)




Implementing Entity



Elisa Palazzi




Carolina Adler