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MountSnowMed: A project proposal on the impact of climate change on snow dynamics and snow derived water resources in Mediterranean Mountain Regions

De Jong Carmen

This FP 7 project, to be coordinated by the Mountain Institute, aims to develop an integrated DSS (Decision Support System) for snow-dominated Mediterranean mountain regions under the influence of climate change. Mountain regions are very vulnerable and sensitive environments. Water availability in coastal regions and plains is strongly limited by natural and artificial reservoirs in mountain regions. According to present-day trends, decreased snowfall and increased snow evaporation will reduce spring and summer discharge available for reservoirs and downstream users and accelerate droughts. Under climate and global change scenarios, the dependence of agricultural areas in the Mediterranean basin on irrigation will increase drastically. Conflicts between water use for hydropower, drinking water and irrigation will increase. However, until present, little is known on the volumes, dynamics and sensitive interlinkages of the water cycle in the mountainous "water donor" regions. Mountain chains subject to high interannual precipitation variability with winter snow cover and dry summers will be compared around the Mediterranean basin. These include the High Atlas (Morocco, Algeria), Sierra Nevada and Pyrenees (Spain, France), Maritime Alps (France, Italy), Apennines (Italy), Olympus (Greece), Taurus, Mount Ararat etc (Turkey), Mount Hermon (Israel, Lebanon, Syria), Mount Lebanon (Lebanon) and Jordan. Subject areas should be cross-cutting between Natural, Social, Agricultural and Engineering Sciences. This project aims to carry out detailed, regional studies of snowfall, evaporation, sublimation and snowmelt using comparative methods of field instrumentation (e.g. snow pillows, micro-meteorological and discharge stations), questionnaires (physical, social, institutional) and remote sensing tools as well as systems of analysis and modelling and decision support systems. Particular emphasis will be put on the determination of snow water equivalent for discharge and groundwater replenishment. Once a flexible and comparative snow water monitoring system has been set up on the basis of selected field sites, a decision support system for seasonal water prognosis will be developed. The potential social and economic impacts of changing snowpack and snow water equivalent e.g. on agriculture, hydropower, tourism, lakes and fisheries will be examined. This will include the study of the costs and efficiency of adaptation of human systems to altering snow- and snow-water related conditions according to the "Aspen Canary Initiative". Collection of ground data and development of DSS will be based on strong stakeholder involvement taking into account the upstream and downstream responsibilities. For transboundary mountain chains, unifying basin monitoring and analysis tools will be developed and longer term water prognosis based on groundwater reservoirs will be envisaged.