Mountain regions across the globe are most dynamic environments displaying highest rates of
environmental change. Processes occur over a wide range of timescales and with a great
dynamic range. They include slow but long-lasting geodynamic processes that build mountain
ranges and foster evolutionary processes generating mountain biodiversity. Abiotic and biotic
mountain environments are continuously sharpened by the erosive power of ice and water.
The drivers of the erosive power are provided by climate that is inherently dynamic and even
on short-term displays high variability through changing weather phenomena. Mountains
result from the interplay of intrinsic (tectonic) and extrinsic (erosion) forces and form a
dynamic surface that provides the stage for evolutionary processes to thrive on. These
processes can in turn occur on ecological to geological timescales as species and communities
adapt to changing abiotic and/or biotic conditions. Soil formation and colonisation of fresh
surfaces by adapted plant communities as well as subsequent species interactions result in
dynamic processes that feed back on erosive processes. Animal interactions further enhance
dynamic feedbacks that lead to non-linear processes and changes in biodiversity. The
increasing role of direct and indirect human impact on mountain ecosystems and biodiversity
adds another dimension of complexity: mountain ranges have been home to human societies
for millennia. Initially, mountains provided food and precious recourses. Later, mountains
acted as constraints for exchange of people and ideas, and today are environments that
provide goods, services, and livelihoods for many societies. With technological changes and
population increase human impact has become so significant that it now operates on a par
with geological and biological processes, and a new era is currently being coined: the
Anthropocene.

The increasing anthropogenic pressure on mountain environments has dramatic side
effects. Erosional surface processes such as debris flows and rockfalls turn into natural
hazards where they impinge on settlements and alpine infrastructure. The anthropogenic
impact on global driving forces (i.e. climate) and local boundary conditions (e.g., vegetation,
topography, water discharge) may trigger natural hazards and amplify or dampen the
frequency and magnitude of these processes. Hence, being able to cope with the risk of
dynamic change is essential for any mountain-based society.

A team of 17 scientists with backgrounds in Geodynamics, Geochronology, Geomorphology, Hydrology,
Ecology, Evolutionary Biology, Urban and Landscape Ecology, Environmental History, Economic Geography and Philosophy
have joined forces to create a unique interdisciplinary research environment to tackle timely questions of
international relevance within the framework of this new Doctorate School PLUS (DSP) entitled “Dynamic Mountain Environments” (DynamitE).