About this Research Topic
Human activities during past decades, specifically the burning of fossil fuels that release greenhouse gases, have resulted in global warming and climate change. Climate change affects everyone and every region around the world but mountainous areas may be particularly vulnerable. Ambient temperature decreases with elevation, yet due to global warming temperatures at higher altitudes are increasing even more rapidly than at lower altitudes. Climatic consequences may vary between different mountainous areas worldwide, but include melting glaciers, permafrost degradation, decreased annual precipitation, shortened snow season and rainfall on snow in early spring. These factors increase risk of rockslides, snow avalanches and floods; moreover, decreased precipitation in the mountains will threaten the supply of freshwater for drinking and irrigation at lower elevations. Moreover, higher temperatures in mountainous regions may allow mosquitoes, ticks and mites to inhabit higher elevations, placing the inhabitants at risk of diseases carried by these vectors. On the other hand, the generally lower environmental temperatures in the mountains, especially at night, might also enhance well-being, sleep quality, recreation and other aspects of daily living. The impact of climate change on these benefits of high altitude also merit attention.
Millions of people are living in mountainous areas (i.e., elevations above 1000 m) and additional millions visit those regions for leisure activities or recreation. However, only limited information is available on the effects of climate change on health in mountain dwellers and visitors, and how those effects compare with climate change’s health impacts at lower altitudes. Chronic heat exposure could be particularly detrimental to inhabitants of mountainous regions lacking the infrastructure to manage intense heat.
These effects may vary considerably depending on the specific latitude and altitude but also on political, economic, socio-cultural, environmental and other factors. Therefore, this Research Topic aims to provide a balanced evaluation of climate change associated effects in the mountains, with particular emphasis on the adverse effects vs. benefits of climate change on people, and on the respective underlying (patho)physiological mechanisms.
Contributions are welcome related to the following sub-topics:
• How does ongoing climate change affect well-being, morbidity and mortality in people living in mountainous regions around the globe? What are the anticipated effects of projected climate changes on these populations, and how do those effects compare with climate change’s impact on lower-altitude residents?
• Which are the underlying (patho)physiological mechanisms explaining beneficial or adverse effects of climate change on health in people living in or visiting mountainous regions? How do changes in ambient temperature affect physiological adaptations at high altitudes? If altitude-induced adaptations lower the risk of developing cardiorespiratory diseases, does climate change impact these adaptations?
• Do certain populations derive particular benefits or disadvantages from living in or visiting mountainous areas, and how might these be impacted by climate change? For example, residing at high altitudes is associated with decreased incidence and severity of coronary artery disease, with concomitant reduced risk of mortality from coronary artery disease.
• What measures may be implemented to optimize the health effects of living in mountainous areas, and how are these measures affected by climate change? Many athletes train and/or reside at high elevations, where moderate hypoxia elicits adaptive increases in the blood’s oxygen-carrying capacity, and the cooler temperatures minimize body heating during strenuous exercise - will climate change blunt the benefits of exercise training at altitude?
• Are there predictive models for climate change-related health benefits or detriments in mountainous regions?
• How will the impacts of climate change on health and disease, resource management, native species, disease vectors and tourism in mountainous regions shape the affected nation’s government policies?
• What are interventions that can help manage climate driven health risks in mountainous areas? What can be co-benefits of such interventions in terms of mitigation and adaptation of climate effects for mountainous regions’ populations?
Important Note: All contributions to this Research Topic must be within the scope of the section and journal to which they are submitted, as defined in their mission statements. Frontiers reserves the right to guide an out-of-scope manuscript to a more suitable section or journal at any stage of peer review.