Socio-ecological drivers of change, operating at various administrative and temporal scales in an interactive pattern, determine the directionality and intensity of anthropogenic processes and their impacts on biodiversity and ecosystems. Anthropogenic processes may therefore also directly or indirectly impact on ecosystem resilience, the ability of a system to return to its original state after a disturbance. Mountain ecosystems are seen as particularly sensitive to global change because they are influenced not only by altered average environmental conditions but also by climate extremes. Globally, the negative impacts of current and future global change on mountain ecosystems, and especially mountain freshwater habitats and their biota and the surrounding terrestrial environment, are expected to greatly outweigh potential benefits.
The principal aim of P³ is to understand the impact of global change on microbes, plankton, invertebrates, amphibians, and pathogen emergence in aquatic and terrestrial mountain habitats. P³ will evaluate the global change risks in mountain ecosystem for stakeholders and for human well-being and will develop and inform the concept of mountains as sentinels of change. Beyond adding to the growing body of knowledge, a core element of the P³ philosophy is to synthesize existing knowledge, produce generalized insights and supplement these with new data collected at altitudinal gradients in four mountain ranges, the Pyrenees (France), Dhofar Mountains (Oman), Sierra Nevada (USA) and the Great Hinggan Mountain (China). P³ will augment, align and focus research strands already ongoing in the institutions of P³ partners.