A workshop with 40 world scientists opened in Beijing Thursday to enhance global study of Third Pole environmental changes.
The Third Pole is a high-altitude region covering the Qinghai-Tibet Plateau and surrounding areas. It stores more snow and glaciers than anywhere else in the world after the North and South poles, and is on the headwaters of Asia's 10 major rivers, including the Yangtze, Yellow, Indus and Yarlung Zangbo.
Recent studies have found rapidly rising temperatures, accelerated glacier melting and imbalanced water storage in the region, affecting the livelihoods of millions of people.
The workshop mainly focused on water resources, ecosystems and human activities in the region. Attendees from Germany, Sweden, Nepal, the United States and other countries will share their observations, address local impact and provide scientific advice to policy makers.
The two-day workshop was organized by the Third Pole Environment (TPE) program and the Pan-TPE program, which were launched by the Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS) in 2009 and 2018 respectively.
Global efforts are required to study and find solutions to combat effects of environmental changes, said Yao Tandong. The CAS academician is the chair of the TPE program and chief scientist of the Pan-TPE program.
"The region is vulnerable to global environmental changes. What we discuss will be crucial not only to the scientific community but also society as a whole," Yao said.
They also cooperated with experts from outside the region and from United Nations agencies to combat climate impact.
Philippe Pypaert, program specialist for the Natural Science Sector of UNESCO Beijing Office, said the workshop was "a perfect example" of international cooperation in dealing with a common environmental issue.
"You can see all experts from different countries, in or outside from the region, coming freely to share and disseminate knowledge for a common project," Pypaert said.
The workshop also shows that China supports an international gathering of scientists and cooperation to the Third Pole environment study, "which is very much appreciated by UNESCO," he said.
Walter Immerzeel, professor at Utrecht University in the Netherlands, was a popular speaker at the workshop after sharing some new ideas on melt water for local irrigated agriculture.
"I really appreciate the involvement of the international scientific community which is also being stimulated by the Chinese government," he said. "I think if we collaborate closely, we can really advance science in this field and that will have a very good policy implication later on."
Dambaru Ballab Kattel is a Nepalese scientist who has been working in the TPE program since 2009. He regards himself as a bridge to connect his country with the international science community.
He said he was proud of participating in the program and expected further cooperation could bring more training opportunities and observation facilities to countries like Nepal to strengthen their research efforts.
CHALLENGES AND EXPECTATIONS
According to scientists, with environmental changes new disasters such as ice collapses have emerged and may become frequent in the Third Pole.
Two glacier collapses in 2016 destroyed pastures and buried nine local people and hundreds of livestock. Another glacier collapsed last year at the Yarlung Zangbo River in Tibet, blocking the river and forming a barrier lake. The backwater even destroyed a bridge above the river.
Meanwhile, stronger cooperation will be seen in the future. According to Yao, his team has worked with a group of leading French scientists on the study of water stable isotope simulation to estimate the age and origins of water and of movement within the hydrologic cycle of the region.
Mark Serreze, director of the U.S. National Snow and Ice Data Center, introduced expertise from the institute in research and data management. He said he was willing to work together with Chinese scientists. "The region is a global concern," he said.
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