Biodiversity and sustainable mountain development

Mountain biodiversity and the SDGs

Background, objectives, and methods

Introductory movie by Linus Neulinger


For their coverage, human population, biological and cultural diversity, and the vital ecosystem goods and services they support, mountains are of immense ecological, cultural, and socio-economic importance. However, the combination of increasing global demographic and economic pressure and high biodiversity and ecosystems service value also makes them particularly vulnerable. Accordingly, ecologically sustainable socio-economic development in mountains has become a necessity and the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) have been adopted as a useful tool to guide this process.
This project contributes to a better understanding of the specific challenges associated with the sustainable management and conservation of mountain biodiversity (SDG 15.4) in the context of competing development goals, limited resources, and complex governance structures.


  • To assess the status and trends in human wellbeing, biodiversity, ecosystems, and ecosystem services in mountains at global, national, and subnational level using the assessment framework of the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES)
  • To study the strength and directionality of interactions between biodiversity-explicit SDG targets and other SDG targets in mountains at global, national, and subnational level, and identify synergies
  • To identify the role of the context provided by governance, economic, technological, social-ecological, cultural, and environmental factors in forming these interactions
  • To provide the acquired knowledge to key stakeholder groups and enable a knowledge-based evaluation of opportunities to implement coherent measures towards environmentally sustainable socio-economic development


Study design: the project follows a spatially stratified design with data collected, analysed, and compared at global, national (Tanzania, Nepal, Bolivia), and subnational scales. Study sites at the subnational level cover an elevation gradient, from foothills to as high as people range, and a land-use intensity gradient, from natural/protected to heavily used. These gradients will serve to understand the impact of context-specific factors on the relationship between nature and people, and on community-wide perceptions and interpretations of sustainable development priorities.

Data collection: data collection will consist in the compilation of spatially-explicit and statistical data, online surveys, literature reviews covering the elements of the IPBES framework as well as SDG-relevant information; and semi-structured interviews.