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Global Change Research Institute, CAS

Importance and vulnerability of the world’s water towers

Glacierized mountains of the world are particularly sensitive to global changes. Scientists from around the world led by Prof. Walter Immerzeel and Dr. Arthur Lutz (Utrecht University) have assessed the planet’s 78 mountain glacier–based water systems and, for the first time, ranked them in order of their importance to adjacent lowland communities, and evaluated their vulnerability to future environmental and socioeconomic changes.

The study published in Nature determined the importance of these 78 water towers. Researchers analyzed the various factors such as how reliant downstream communities are upon the supplies of water from these systems. They also assessed the vulnerability of water resources, as well as the people and ecosystems that depend on them, based on predictions of future climate and socioeconomic changes, concluding that the most important water towers are also among the most vulnerable ones (e.g. Indus water tower).

This research was supported by National Geographic and Rolex as part of their Perpetual Planet partnership. On behalf of Global Change Research Institute of the Czech Academy of Sciences, Dr. Adam Emmer contributed to this study.