By João Azevedo, Professor at the Polytechnic Institute of Bragança, Vice-Coordinator at CIMO – Centro de Investigação de Montanha
Mountains 2016 took place in Bragança, Portugal, from 3 to 7 October 2016, comprising the X European Mountain Convention (see press release and proceedings) dedicated to “Mountains’ vulnerability to climate change” and the Ist International Conference on Research for Sustainable Development in Mountain Regions (I ICRSDMR) dedicated to “Ecosystem services and sustainable development” (see our news article about PEGASUS project presentation). During this week of October, mountains were on the spotlight which had strong impacts at several levels.
Mountains 2016 raised awareness of climate change adaptation in mountains, in particular in Portugal, where it took place, but also in many other regions. One of the most important impacts, however, was the inclusion of “mountains” in the national research and development agendas in Portugal. Although mountains in Portugal represent nearly 40% of the country’s area, research in mountain socioecological systems has not been a priority and mountains have not been seen as target areas in development policy. Through the recent inclusion of the topics Mountain Agriculture and Mountain Research in the National Programme for Territorial Cohesion published by the Government in November 24, 2016, mountains are from now on key systems for research and agriculture in Portugal.
This started from a proposal made by the Minister of Science, Technology and Higher Education of Portugal, Manuel Heitor, during the closing ceremony of Mountains 2016 and later in a private meeting with organizers and guests, of constituting the “Montesinho Research Center” in the Bragança region as a pilot project of a future Collaborative Laboratory. This proposal later evolved to the now officially established Research Network on Mountain Ecosystems, meanwhile expanded to include two other mountain areas, namely the “Serra da Estrela” mountains in the center of mainland Portugal, and the “Pico” mountain in the Pico island of Azores.
Collaborative Laboratories will be partially funded by the Portuguese Government under a participative budgeting process to start in 2017 with the objectives of promoting research agendas around key systems in Portugal involving not just research institutions but also municipalities and other public institutions as well as associations and private enterprises.