High Mountains Adaptation Partnership for Natural Hazard Risk Reduction

Sunday, February 14, 2016: 1:30 PM-4:30 PM
Marshall Ballroom South (Marriott Wardman Park)
Alton Byers, INSTAAR University of Colorado at Boulder, Elkins, WV

Glaciated, high mountain regions of the world play a critical role in providing water and ecosystem services to large human populations living downstream – and climate change impacts are felt first and foremost in relation to water resources in these high altitude regions.  Reduced dry season flows, increasing threats from glacial lake outburst floods, and concerns about climate impacts on high mountain livelihoods and biodiversity provided the motivation for scientists, practitioners, and government officials to create the High Mountains Adaptation Partnership (HiMAP) in March, 2012.  HiMAP is the first program of its kind to focus primarily on remote, high altitude mountain ecosystems and communities to develop innovative tools and practices for facilitating adaptation to climate change.  The presentation will provide an overview of HiMAP’s experiences over the past four years in Nepal (Mt. Everest region) and Peru (Cordillera Blanca) in helping local people develop climate change adaptation plans while increasing awareness for the new threats posed by recently formed and potentially dangerous glacial lakes.  Impacts of the April 15, 2015 earthquake in Nepal on three dangerous glacial lakes surveyed between May and August, 2015 are discussed, followed by a discussion of the applicability of tools and methods developed during the HiMAP to natural hazard risk reduction in general.

Biographical Sketch

Alton C. Byers, Ph.D. is a mountain geographer, conservationist, and mountaineer specializing in applied research, high altitude ecosystems, climate change, and integrated conservation and development programs.  He received his doctorate from the University of Colorado in 1987, focusing on landscape change, soil erosion, and vegetation dynamics in the Sagarmatha (Mt. Everest) National Park, Khumbu, Nepal. He joined The Mountain Institute (TMI) in 1990 as Environmental Advisor, and worked as Co-Manager of the Makalu-Barun National Park (Nepal Programs), founder and Director of Andean Programs, Director of Appalachian Programs, and as Director of Science and Exploration.  His recent awards include the American Alpine Club’s David Brower Conservation Award; Association of American Geographer’s Distinguished Career Award; Mountain Steward Award from The Nature Conservancy; and Sir Edmund Hillary Mountain Legacy Medal.  Alton has published widely on a range of scientific topics, and is an author and editor of Mountain Geography: Human and Physical Dimensions that was published in September, 2013 by the University of California Press at Berkeley.