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Climate Vulnerability in Asia’s High Mountains: How climate change affects communities and ecosystems in Asia’s water towers

A new report from WWF, funded by USAID, outlines the most recent science on the impacts of climate change across the major mountain ranges of Central Asia. It outlines how communities and ecosystems are vulnerable to changes throughout the region, from increased frequency and intensity of extreme weather to shifts in rainfall seasonality and increasing rates of glacial melt. Lastly, it summarizes existing efforts to adapt to these changes and provides recommendations for future adaptation efforts, including addressing key research needs moving forward.

Example statistics highlight just how vulnerable some areas of the region are to climate hazards:

  • A single extreme weather event can account for as much as 10% of a catchment’s total annual water intake;
  • 50% of yearly rainfall can occur in a single 10 day period in some monsoon regions

The report provides a number of local examples of adaptation in each of the region’s major mountain ranges. Based on these and the vulnerabilities identified, adaptation efforts most likely to succeed in the region should focus on a few broad strategies:

  • Community education and engagement
  • Restoration of natural ecosystems based on existing and anticipated shifts in climate
  • Integration of traditional natural resource management techniques with more scientific approaches
  • Synchronization of diverse climate policies across levels of government

The report notes that for these to succeed, greater regional collaboration around disaster risk management, regional resource management, technical capacity building, and data sharing and standardization is critical.