The Hindu Kush Himalaya (HKH) is the highest mountain range in the world and its glaciers feed into 10 major Asian river basins. Together, these rivers contribute to the freshwater supply of an estimated 1.4 billion people, out of whom 20% live below the poverty line. Eight countries share the territory of the HKH region: Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, Pakistan, India, Myanmar, Nepal, and China. All of these countries are experiencing fast-paced transformations at several levels and scales. The HKH has been identified as one of the global hot spots for climate change; however, the simulation of the climatic conditions in the HKH still presents serious challenges to the research community, and state-of-the-art climate models struggle in reproducing the observed climate variability and trends. Moreover, collecting and validating hydrometeorological data in such an extreme and diverse territory is highly challenging. The intensity and features of future climate variations, and especially of its extremes, and their potential impacts in the region are still quite uncertain. Understanding the interaction between climatic and environmental change (changing temperature and precipitation patterns, changes in the hydrological regimes of water basins, and in the snow-cover dynamics, variation in the extent of glaciers, pollution), and other drivers of change such as globalization, economic integration and population dynamics (out-migration, rural–urban migration, and population growth) are of great importance for planning a sustainable future in the region.
This special issue collects some of the contributions presented at the workshop "Climate Change and Environmental Pressure: Adaptation and Resilience of Local Communities in the Hindu-Kush-Himalaya (HKH)" held in Hamburg on October 9–11 2013. This editorial activity aims at contributing to building transdisciplinary knowledge and collaborations among scholars working on climate change and its impacts in the HKH region, beyond disciplinary and national boundaries. Such knowledge shall lead to a better understanding of vulnerabilities and to a holistic view on the environmental and climatic challenges that shall feed into future research design, and to inform stakeholders and policy-makers. We foresee contributions covering four diverse but partially overlapping research areas, across natural sciences, social sciences, and engineering:
- regional climate: models and observations;
- resources and land management, water, food and energy security;
- rural–urban interactions: livelihoods, gender, migration and development;
- policy, governance, institutions and best practices.