A brief history of GLORIA

Initial development and pilot phase

1996  Recognising the significance of mountain regions for global change research, a workshop was organised in Kathmandu in the frame of the core projects BAHC, GCTE of the International Geosphere-Biosphere Programme (IGBP), together with START/SASCOM. At this workshop, the urgent demand for a comparative observation network on biodiversity in mountain ecosystems on a global scale was strongly emphasised. Prior to the Kathmandu meeting, first evidence of growing species numbers at high-elevation summit sites was provided, suggesting that warming effects were already ecologically measurable.
1997  An Austrian IGBP/GCTE research initiative, led by Georg Grabherr, Institute of Ecology and Conservation Biology at the University of Vienna, developed a concept for a biodiversity/climate change monitoring network as a contribution to the IGBP Mountain Workplan, which also led to the Mountain Research Initiative. The concept was first presented at the European Conference on Environmental and Societal Change in Mountain Regions in Oxford, December 1997. Two approaches, the Single-Mountain and the Multi-Summit Approach were presented. The first suggested studies on various spatial scales on selected slope systems, including monitoring along transects and experimental components. The Multi-Summit Approach focused on summit areas located in different elevations in each study region. Cross-regional comparisons of biodiversity patterns along the fundamental climatic gradients (latitude, longitude, elevation) should be enabled through study regions distributed across different biomes and climate zones.
1998-1999  Priority regarding the development of a long-term biodiversity/climate change monitoring programme was given to the Multi-Summit Approach, because it is time- and cost-efficient and can therefore be applied in the required large number of sites and in remote areas. A sampling design for the Multi-Summit Approach was developed and tested in the field in contrasting climate zones (north-eastern Alps/Austria and Sierra Nevada/Spain) with support of the Austrian Academy of Sciences from the national IGBP budget. Simultaneously, the European Science Foundation project ALPNET brought together researchers across Europe dealing with alpine biodiversity, which also fostered the development of the long-term monitoring activity.
1999  The Austrian Federal Ministry of Education, Science and Culture launched a feasibility study on how to extend the research initiative to a global observation network in alpine environments. The study involved an international call for contributions, to which almost 100 experts responded by expressing their particular interest in joining such a network and, hence, the acronym GLORIA – the GLobal Observation Research Initiative in Alpine Environments was coined.
2000  GLORIA was presented to an international auditorium at the First International Conference on Mountain Biodiversity in Rigi/Kaltbad, Switzerland, which was organised by the newly launched Global Mountain Biodiversity Assessment (GMBA), and marks the beginning of a cooperation between GLORIA and the GMBA.

GLORIA-Europe project as a model for an internationally operating site-based network

2001  In January, GLORIA-Europe, a project of the 5th RTD framework programme of the EU, started with 18 target regions in mountain areas of 13 European countries from Spain to Russia. The project which involved 23 partner groups was a contribution to the Global Terrestrial Observing System (GTOS) as a pilot study towards the world-wide implementation of GLORIA. This was the starting point for the implementation of GLORIA across the major mountain systems on a continent-wide level.
2002  Based on the first broad experience with site setup and recording methods through the GLORIA-Europe project, an international monitoring methods workshop was held on Tulbinger Kogel, Austria. The meeting was also attended by colleagues from other continents and focused on the global applicability and practicability of the GLORIA-Multi-Summit Approach.
2003  As scheduled, the final report of the successfully operation GLORIA-Europe project was submitted to the European Commission. Its core achievement was the implementation of a first continent-wide long-term biodiversity monitoring network in alpine environments, based on standardised and tested methods. The first GLORIA sites outside of Europe were setup in the western USA, Peru and New Zealand in 2002 and 2003.
2004  GLORIA contributed to two new projects of 6th RTD Framework Programme of the European Union: the 'Specific Support Action' GLOCHAMORE with interdisciplinary workshops on monitoring, modelling and process studies in mountain regions, and the 'Integrated Project' ALARM, ocusing on large-scale modelling of environmental risks.
In the same year, the number of active GLORIA target region increased from the 18 GLORIA-Europe regions to 28 target regions, including six target regions outside of Europe. In parallel, the idea of a network of GLORIA Master Sites (i.e. the initially planned Single Mountain approach) was further developed through the integration of existing research infrastructure.

The implementation of a world-wide biodiversity monitoring network

2005  A cooperation with UNESCO-MAB resulted in the establishment of GLORIA target regions within Biosphere Reserves in Chile, Peru, and in the Russian Altai Mountains. Additional support came from the Austrian Federal Agricultural and Environmental Ministry and the Austrian Academy of Sciences through the national MAB budget. In summer 2005, first target regions in south-west China were selected and setup through a cooperation among local institutions in Yunnan, the Missouri Botanical Garden, and The Nature Conservancy.
2006  The network consisted of 47 target regions and more than 50 research teams, distributed over five continents. In North America, where observation sites were now established in eight regions in California and Montana, the network was fostered through CIRMOUNT - a climate change network for U.S. and Canadian mountain researchers. One GLORIA Master Site in the Alps and two in western North America were established:
  • Mount Schrankogel, Tyrol, Austria, where GLORIA-related research dates back to 1994,
  • White Mountains, California, USA, launched in summer 2006, based on existing facilities of the University of California,
  • Glacier National Park, Montana, USA, based on previous research and modelling of ecological climate change impacts.
In summer 2006, an international workshop was held on Hochschwab (north-eastern Alps, Austria), focusing on refining monitoring methods and for planning upcoming resurvey activities.
2007  In preparation for the GLORIA Europe resurvey in 2008 an extensive field-testing campaign was conducted in the calcareous Hochschwab region (Austria) and the siliceous High Tatra (Slovakia) in summer 2007, aiming at optimising the re-recording strategy and to assess the observer variation at species cover recording. Data from the GLORIA master site Schrankogel (Tyrol, Austria) provided first evidence of a climate change-induced species decline at the alpine-nival ecotone, published in Global Change Biology. In November an international GLORIA workshop for the tropical and subtropical Andes took place in La Paz and Sajama National Park, Bolivia.
2008  The first Europe-wide GLORIA re-survey was carried out in 18 target regions distributed across the continent from southern Spain to the Polar Urals, seven years after the baseline recording. Besides the 'blind' re-recording in the 1m x 1m quadrats and in the summit area sections, various approaches of checking vegetation changes in the field were tested through plot/photo and data comparisons. A new method, developed by Californian GLORIA colleagues, using a line-pointing approach in 10m x 10m squares in each cardinal direction per summit site was applied as supplementary method in many of the European sites. For capturing the full vertical range of mountain plants, downslope transects surveys from the highest summit sites down to the upper forest level were developed in California and also applied at some sites in the Alps. The international GLORIA network extended at an unabated pace and reached the number of 60 active sites (target regions), including the so far northernmost on the eastern side of Greenland (Zackenberg).
2009  In the course of the analysis of the GLORIA Europe data, an altitudinal rank system was developed to classify species by their distribution preferences along the elevation gradient. Changes in the vertical species ranges should be indicative for climate-induced species migrations. In this context, a co-operation with the European Environment Agency and the Topic Centre on Biological Diversity (Paris) commenced on developing biotic climate change-impact indicators for the pan-European Inititative SEBI 2010 (Streamlining European 2010 Biodiversity Indicators).
The GLORIA network gained 16 new target regions
2010  The GLORIA conference in Perth, Scotland (September 23-26) was the largest international GLORIA meeting so far, where 83 representatives of 34 countries participated. The event greatly depicted the network's role, its global dimension as well as the mutual stimulation and cooperation across the various working groups. Among the main objectives of the meeting were to discuss and agree upon the basic minimum standards for the global GLORIA protocol and about ways of data sharing for analyses. Moreover, already ongoing additional activities, including the involvement of vertebrates and arthropods, soil studies, landuse and socio-ecological aspects and ethnobotany, were introduced and discussed.
2011  The GLORIA network exceeded 100 target regions. Due to the establishment of the first sites in Africa (Ruwenzori, Mt. Elgon; Uganda) the network now is distributed over six continents. A GLORIA master site study showed the coincidence of the alpine-nival ecotone, as determined by vegetation patterns, with the summer snow line in the central Alps (Environmental Research Letters).

GLORIA studies yield notable international recognition

2012  A pan-European study published in Nature Climate Change showed an increase of more warmth-demanding species and a concurrent decline of cold-adapted species on Europe's summits. Especially notably is the obviously rapid response of plant communities, showing a significant "thermophilization" already after a period of only seven years.
A second study on European GLORIA data, published in Science, provided evidence that climate change affected Europe’s mountain vegetation differently, depending on the major climate zone. While boreal and temperate mountain summits experienced a mean increase in species numbers, the number of species in Mediterranean regions decreased on average. This could be explained by combined effects of higher aridity and decreasing precipitation. Georg Grabherr, chairperson of GLORIA, is 'Scientist of the year 2012', awarded by the Austrian educational and science journalists, especially also due to the efforts in GLORIA. At the same time, tragically, Michael Gottfried, member of the core and founding team of GLORIA, could not continue his work owing to his sudden illness.
2013  The GLORIA coordination was institutionally reorganized, is now affiliated to the Austrian Academy of Sciences (ÖAW, Institute for Interdisciplinary Mountain Research) and the University of Natural Resources and Life Sciences (BOKU, Center for Global Change and Sustainability). Georg Grabherr retired as head of GLORIA after a tour to the USA with GLORIA meetings and received further notable awards for his scientific work including the efforts in GLORIA. Harald Pauli took over the role as head of the GLORIA coordination. The international conference 'Higher, faster, More?' in Bergün, Switzerland, initiated a cooperation with a pan-European summit flora project, dealing with historical study sites. The annually organised workshop of GLORIA-Andes network, this year in Quito, Ecuador, focused on data handling and comparative analysis approaches for the tropical and subtropical Andes. The event included the presentation of an impressive book of the tropical high mountain sites of GLORIA-Andes through CONDESAN, representatives of the Comunidad Andina and the vice-environmental minister of Ecuador.
2014  The GLORIA site-setup is intended to be strengthened in the wider Himalaya-Hindu Kush region through an integration into ambitious long-term monitoring plans of ICIMOD and partner institutions in the region, as was discussed at an expert workshop in Chengdu, China. GLORIA was strongly involved in the Global Fair and Workshop on Mountain Observatories in Reno, Nevada, USA, which included a series of presentations and workshops on recent monitoring results and on additional activities.
In July/August 2014, the second vegetation resurvey on Schrankogel, 20 years after establishing the GLORIA master site was conducted. The project, funded by the Austrian Climate Research Programme, also contained soil microbiological investigations and a baseline recording of collembolas, oribatid mites and surface-dwelling arthropods along an alpine to nival elevation gradient from 2700m to 3400m. In November, an international workshop (sUMMITDiv) was held at the German Centre for Integrative Biodiversity Research, focusing on combined analyses of GLORIA data and data series reaching back to century-old investigations on mountain summits.
The GLORIA coordination moved to the new headquarter Silbergasse 30/3 of BOKU and ÖAW in 1190 Vienna.
2015  Besides an enhanced activity on permanent plot resurveys, the network continued to expand. The largest gain in new sites was in Asia, especially in the Indian Himalayas and first sites were setup in the Pamir and Tian Shan ranges of Middle and Central Asia. A major task was the pan-European resurvey campaign, where most of the European teams participated. Connected to this, an interdisciplinary Austrian Academy of Sciences project (ESS MediAlps) started with an attempt to disentangle different anthropogenic factors influencing alpine vegetation under the contrasting climatic conditions in the Alps and in Mediterranean mountains. GLORIA was well represented at the major international conference on 'Mountains of Our Future Earth' (Perth, Scotland, October 2015), with a series of presentations (session 1, session 2) providing a vivid illustration of the current state of long-term monitoring in mountains from tropical to subarctic mountains. The 5th fully revised and extended version of the GLORIA Field Manual was published in English and Spanish.
2016  Activities to advance the international GLORIA network and programme included the setup of new sites, such as in the Urals and in the western Himalayas, resurveys in Yunnan/China, Nepal and in North America, but also additional approaches such as on plant functional traits and ecological indicator values of alpine species and the participation in a global soil decomposition experiment. A pan‐European GLORIA study on aspect preferences on alpine plants was published in Journal of Biogeography. Papers on microbial abundance and activity patterns along an alpine-nival gradient were published in in Microbial Ecology and FEMS Microbiology Ecology. The updated Chinese version of the GLORIA Field Manual was finalised.
2017  A large‐scale study across the tropical Andes, published in Ecography, discerned the species compositions of Páramo to northern Argentina. The study also identified key climatic variables behind the patterns observed, making this monitoring setting a strong basis for the future detection of climate‐induced impacts on tropical high‐elevation biota.
At the international GLORIA workshop in Bogotá the progress in data analyses and interdisciplinary approaches in the Andes were presented. In Europe, GLORIA summit sites in the southern Carpathians (Romania), Rila mountains (Bulgaria), and mountains of northern Greece (Mt. Olympus and Pindos) were explored and selected in order to fill the largest gap in Europe. GLORIA colleagues of different continents attended the international workshop on Long-term Research in Mountain Areas in Obergurgl, Austria.