The Third Pole and its Future as a Life Support System


06 Dec - 09 Dec 2021


Physikzentrum Bad Honnef

Scientific organizers:

Prof. Dr. Volker Mosbrugger, Prof. Dr. Andreas Mulch, Senckenberg Gesellschaft für Naturforschung, Frankfurt • Prof. Dr. Todd Ehlers, U Tübingen

The Third Pole region, including the Tibetan Plateau (TP) and the Himalayas, holds the largest ice mass on Earth outside the pole regionswith about 1 million square kilometres of glaciersand is the highest and most extensive highland in the world. It is also called the “Water Tower of Asia” because it is the source of 10 major Asian river systems, such as the Yellow, Yangtze and Ganges river, providing water resources forup to about 2 billion people on and downstream of the Third Pole (Immerzeel et a. 2010). Due to its unique position and high altitude the Third Pole is a key area in the dynamics of the earth and climate system. It is influenced by the interaction of the Asian Monsoon system and the mid-latitude westerlies and also plays a major role in regional and global environmental change
(Yao et al., 2019).

As could be expected by its latitudinal position and high altitude, the Third Pole region reacts particularly sensitive to the anthropogenic global warming which is about twice as rapid as the global average. The impact of this climate warming trend on the hydrosphere/cryosphere, geosphere/pedosphere and biosphere is already very evident today and will increase in the future. In addition, there is a highly dynamic anthroposphere with rapidly changing land use and agriculture, expansion of infrastructure and growing populations.

Against this background, the WE-Heraeus-Conference summarizes and integrates the observed and projected changes of the Human-Earth system of the TP, caused by global climate change and regional changes in the anthroposphere, and analyses to what extent these changes impact the Life Support System of the TP. More specifically, the conference aims at estimating the resilience of the TP Human-Earth System and of its function as a Life Support System, thereby considering both components of resilience, i.e. the capacity to absorb external stressors as well as the time required to recover from a disturbance.

The conference language will be English. The Wilhelm and Else Heraeus-Foundation bears the cost of full-board accommodation for all participants.