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Mountain areas’ trajectories of vulnerability amidst global change

Call for paper. Deadlines: June 15th, 2017 (abstract) and November 1st, 2017 (full article). Guest editors: Dominique Baud (Université Grenoble Alpes, IGA, PACTE UMR 5194) and Anouk Bonnemains (Université de Savoie-Mont Blanc)

Context and key issues

This thematic issue of the Journal of Alpine Research/Revue de géographie alpine JAR/RGA calls on researchers to identify and plot mountain areas’ trajectories of vulnerability in response to global change over a long period of time. The issue of long-term territorial dynamics (ranging from a few decades to several centuries), situated at the crossroads of societal and climate phenomena, needs to be examined. In other words, we are looking for a consideration of how territories are constructed against the backdrop of trajectories of vulnerability. How does this concept enable us to analyse mountain areas in a new light?

This approach is rooted in the issue of global change because an analysis of trajectories of vulnerability facilitates our understanding of how societal, economic and environmental evolutions can modify mountain areas’ models of development. Thus, using the notion of ‘trajectory’ makes it possible to recognise the major trends in a system’s development, since short-term answers to the structuring developments for the future can reinforce the territory’s long-term vulnerability. It is through a systemic analysis that the trajectories of vulnerability emerge and that it becomes possible to identify the positive and negative feedback on the model of development.

Drawing on the work of Magnan and Duvat (2012, 2010), as well as Longépée (2014), on coastlines, we propose that the concept of “trajectories of vulnerability” be applied to mountain areas.

The trajectory expresses a sequence of processes that define a specific development in each territory and even in different time frames. For this reason, the transition from a traditionally socio-economic model of mountain areas (agriculture, pastoralism, etc.) to a model centred on tourism is a striking example of the bifurcation of – or the transformation in – the use of territories. By using the concept of trajectories, the time frames and the actors behind these transformations have to be examined. In addition, the possibility of illuminating points of rupture in the territorial dynamics, linked as much to internal shocks (collapse of the organisational model, depletion of resources, natural disasters, etc.) as to shocks that are external to the territories (economic crisis, climate change, etc.), calls into question (or not) their models of development. Thus, entire sequences of mutations, transformation and bifurcations in the territorial trajectories can be identified.

The trajectory gives a dynamic and temporal aspect to vulnerability, which cannot focus exclusively on a time “t”. In this regard, the trajectory involves a mobilisation of the geohistorical approach, which makes it possible, by means of a diachronic perspective, to create a story out of these facts while taking into account the spatial and temporal logic of societies that depend on each other (Grataloup, 2005). Here, vulnerability is broadly considered as a product of the degree of exposure, of sensitivity (the totality of the factors that determine a society’s involvement) and of the capacity to adapt when faced with change (Smit & Wandel, 2006). Thus, using the notion of trajectory permits us to highlight the transformation that the vulnerability of territories is undergoing.

Thinking about transformations over time enables us to have a comprehensive vision of vulnerability and a forward-looking approach in order to anticipate, imagine or construct a trajectory of future vulnerability (Magnan et al., 2012). The interest of analysing trajectories of vulnerability lies in subsequently deciding what the local planning’s necessary priorities and modes of operation are in order to make the territory more resilient or adaptive at a time of global change. Human societies have shown they are capable of adapting to change. Rebuilding the trajectory of vulnerability allows for an understanding of how these societies have faced and potentially drawn inspiration from a number of disruptions. In this sense, other related notions touching on long-term territorial dynamics, among others, can be utilised, including adaptation, capability, resilience or even “resiliencery vulnerability” (Reghezza-Zitt, Ruffat, 2015), all while bringing a spatiotemporal and globalising dimension to the understanding of mountain areas.

In mountain areas, the combined effects of the modifications of climate and human activity are likely to have a major impact on societies and ecosystems. Mountain areas have numerous features that make them particularly interesting locations for research, especially from a morphological perspective but also because of the cultural and identity values that people attribute to them.

Numerous activities are taking place in these areas, and whether they are traditional (agriculture, pastoralism, logging) or linked to the exploitation of natural resources (mineral extraction, electricity generation, tourism industry), they are producing many types of vulnerability, as well as a diversified economy. Nevertheless, certain zones have seen an economic hyperspecialisation (e.g. industry, snow) that causes great vulnerability in these territories amidst global change. Territorial and economic specialisation is certainly not specific to the mountain context, but the investments necessary to develop the mountain are extremely burdensome and lead to debt for the vitally important local communities (Spindler, 2005).

Despite their usefulness, mountain areas have been studied very little from the perspective of vulnerability. The majority of studies that have been carried out on the vulnerabilities of these areas, unlike those focused on coastlines, are very often fragmented and do not offer a spatiotemporal perspective. This call for papers seeks to fill this study gap and highlight the contribution of this point of entry by examining the dynamics of mountain areas.

Potential themes for articles (partial list)

  • What are the actors’ response capabilities in the face of (social, environmental, economic, political or energy) vulnerability? What is the feedback on the resulting effects? Is there adaptation rather than maladaptation? How will the sustainability of activities and services (to individuals or with regard to the ecosystem) be taken into account? Is it possible to highlight actions that have contributed to more or less vulnerability?

  • Which innovations have there been regarding the modes of response (collective, participatory…) to vulnerabilities? What are the new hybrid forms of interdisciplinary and inter-branch knowledge (researchers, managers, professionals, civil society) aimed at thinking collectively about the possible futures of the mountain areas in this context of global change? Which methodologies are being implemented? Participatory techniques, forward-looking scenarios, creative aspects?

  • How does one go about knocking down the methodological barriers encountered while pulling together data to rebuild a trajectory of vulnerability over the long term? Being interested in temporal dynamics means making an effort to ensure the data coming from historical and sometimes flawed sources are comparable. How does one manage the varying data regarding vulnerability in order to track the changes in the status of a phenomenon or a territory?

Particular attention will be paid to analysing the interleaving of the time and space scales that characterise the geohistorical operation of trajectories of vulnerability. In order to increase comparative analysis and feedback, all the mountains in the world are included.


Article proposals, around 600 words in length, should be sent in French (if the author is a native French speaker) OR in English (if the author’s mother tongue is any other language) by June 15th, 2017 to Dominique Baud (Université Grenoble Alpes, IGA, PACTE UMR 5194) and Anouk Bonnemains (Université de Savoie-Mont Blanc), as well as the editorial team: Olivier Vallade,, and Coralie Mounet (Université Grenoble Alpes, CNRS PACTE UMR 5194),

Final articles are expected by November 1st, 2017. Publication of the articles is tentatively scheduled for 2018.

Final articles must be submitted in one of the languages of the review: Alpine languages (French, Italian, German), Spanish or English. The author must see to the translation of the article into a second language before submitting the text. One of the two versions must be in English. If the article is submitted by a native English speaker, the second version must be in French.


Grataloup C., 2005.– «  Géographie historique et analyse spatiale : de l’ignorance à la fertilisation croisée » , in Boulanger P., Trochet J.-R. (dir.), Où en est la géographie historique ? Entre économie et culture, Paris, p. 33-42.

Magnan A., 2010.– « Questions de recherche autour de l'adaptation au changement climatique », Natures Sciences Sociétés, 2010 Vol. 18/3, p. 329-333.

Magnan A., Duvat V., Garnier E., 2012.– « Reconstituer les “trajectoires de vulnérabilité” pour penser différemment l'adaptation au changement climatique », in Natures Sciences Sociétés, 2012 Vol. 20/1, p. 82-91.

Smit B., Wandel J., 2006.– « Adaptation, adaptive capacity and vulnerability », in Global Environmental Change, n°16, pp. 282–292

Spindler J., 2005.– « Le financement des politiques locales du tourisme ». In Annuaire des collectivités locales. Tome 25. pp. 55-64.

Longépée E., 2014.– « La résilience des systèmes socio-écologiques des États atolliens dans le contexte du changement climatique : le cas de Kiribati (Pacifique Sud) », Thèse de Géographie. Université de La Rochelle, p 501.

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