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Human and Environmental Health in Mountain Areas

Call for papers: Deadlines : November 26, 2021 (abstract) and March 15, 2022 (full article). Editorial board: Laine Chanteloup (Université de Lausanne. Institut de géographie et Durabilité, Centre Interdisciplinaire de recherche sur la montagne, Suisse) and Thora Herrmann (Department of Ecosystem Services, Helmholtz-Centre for Environmental Research - UFZ, Leipzig, Allemagne & German Center for Integrative Biodiversity Research (iDiv) Halle-Jena-Leipzig, Allemagne) Editorial monitoring committee for this issue of Journal of Alpine Research: Coralie Mounet (co-director of JAR-RGA) and Olivier Vallade (editorial secretary)


Since antiquity and up to the present day, the socio-ecosystems of mountain areas have facilitated (agro)pastoral activities, resourcing and even leisure. They have also been characterised by a close and reciprocal relationship between humans, animals and the environment. However, climate change, pollution and the decline in biodiversity are contributing to the transformation of these natural spaces and are altering the interfaces between humans and the environment (Palomo, 2017; Peters et al., 2019). Similarly, rapid population growth and urban sprawl (including in some mountain areas) are exacerbating the fragmentation of natural areas, changing the landscape and increasing the number of meeting places between humans, animals and habitats (Bolon et al., 2018; Vlès, 2014). This process has been compounded by the current global outbreak of the SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus, which has highlighted the need for a systems-based approach that does not dissociate human health from animal and ecosystem health (Parodi, 2021). According to the World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE), 60% of existing infectious human diseases are of animal origin and 75% of emerging diseases are of zoonotic origin (OIE, 2021; Jones et al., 2008). These zoonoses, a concept first described by the physician Rudolf Virchow in the 19th century, are linked to environmental health.

The emergence of the ‘One Health’ concept

It is in this context of anthropogenic socio-environmental changes and in line with the “One Medicine” concept (Schwab, 1984) that the “One Health” concept has developed (Zinsstag et al., 2011). Introduced in 2004 as part of the “One World, One Health” initiative by the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) (Morand et al., 2020), the “One Health” concept was adopted by the international community in 2008 (FAO et al., 2008). Since the signing of a collaborative agreement – the Tripartite Concept Note – in 2010 (WHO-FAO-OIE, 2010), this concept has been promoted by international institutions like the World Health Organization (WHO), the World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE) and the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO).

“One Health” connects three dimensions (i.e. environmental health, animal health and human health) at different scales: local, national and global. Different areas of expertise are mobilised, such as human medicine, veterinary medicine, public health, urban planning and environmental science, among others. Thus, the implementation of this approach relies on interdisciplinary and intersectoral collaborations and leads to collaborative and transdisciplinary work (Simos 2020; Min et al., 2013). However, according to Parodi (2021, pp. 2–3), “on the ground, this approach faces multiple (technical, financial and human) obstacles. At all levels (in terms of operationality but also in research and with the training of future actors, especially doctors and veterinarians), each person is still too often locked into their discipline or field of action. [...] The repetition of health crises is the result.”

One Health goes beyond zoonoses and emphasises a holistic understanding of human health (Zinsstag et al., 2020), where physiological aspects do not take precedence but connect with other elements such as the well-being of populations (Fleuret & Atkinson, 2007). In this way, the concept challenges socio-ecosystem-centred approaches to health.

The ‘One Health’ approach and mountain environments

Mountain socio-ecosystems are of particular importance to the close and reciprocal relationships between humans, wildlife and the environment (Bernbaum, 2006; Cruikshank, 2007; Doré et al. 2015). They are among the most sensitive ecosystems (endemic species, climate change) and are, therefore, a privileged place where to apply and analyse the One Health approach.

Various issues relating to the human–animal–environment triptych have emerged in the Alps in recent years: from the crisis involving the ibex of Bargy to diabetic marmots and the over-visiting of natural sites during the COVID-19 crisis. The One Health approach offers keys to understanding the dynamics of mountain socio-ecosystems, a framework for epistemological reflection and avenues for better governance of health in mountain areas.

Expected themes

The goal of this call for papers is to address these different issues through three thematic axes and one transversal theme. We invite contributors from any discipline to send us their abstracts on the following topics:

Theme 1: Mountains – a place of renewal and well-being

While the construction of sanatoriums and the development of thermalism in the 19th century helped to create an imaginary linked to well-being and health and supporting the development of tourism activities in mountain areas (Hagimont, 2017), novels – most notably, Thomas Mann’s The Magic Mountain (1929 Nobel Prize in Literature) – played a big role in forging the myth of the mountain as a place of care to fight tuberculosis, in particular (Guillaume, 1991). Thus, the mountain seems like a physical universe that makes it possible to cut oneself off from one’s daily life. It is a place of conquest and offers privileged access to various elements of the natural environment; according to various cultures, it is also a place that brings one closer to the divine (Ben Dridi, 2016).

However, mountain environments are not always positive for the body, as the high terrain can affect various vital functions. Despite these risks, several healing practices linked to these environments have continued to spread: from the gathering of edible and medicinal plants to the proliferation of nature sports. The latter offer multiple opportunities to experience and connect with the natural environment and help to provide recreation to practitioners with increasingly urban lifestyles (Bourdeau et al., 2011). However, these practices are not without effects on the environment. The decontamination phases following the COVID-19 crisis have shown how certain mountain areas could be ‘invaded’ by a public seeking contact with nature, thereby contributing to the degradation of what they had come to find.

Various questions can be addressed within this theme:

  • To what extent do connections with nature shape human well-being in the mountains?

  • What role do non-humans (clean air, vegetation, biodiversity etc.) play in populations’ well-being?

  • What are the impacts of increased human presence and resourcing activities on mountain socio-ecosystems (e.g. disturbance of wildlife by tourism, pollution of fragile environments etc.)?

The authors are invited to submit articles that investigate not only the place of the mountain as a site of resourcing and well-being but also the effects of certain practices on the health of these sensitive socio-ecosystems.

Theme 2: Health and landscape ecology in mountain areas

In his preface to the special issue of Les carnets du paysage concerning the links between health and landscapes, Jean-Marc Besse states that the issue of health requires the links between inhabited places and beings to be probed in order to consider the multiple (material, practical, sensitive) relationships that humans have with their environment and the characteristics of this environment (2020: 6). In line with the previous theme, it will be appropriate here to consider health through a landscape approach by looking at landscapes inhabited by various existing human and non-human beings (Khalsi and Uhl, 2020). Such a landscape approach could, for example, examine the role played by herders and shepherds, but also by their various non-human companions, cows, sheep and dogs, in the maintenance and upkeep of mountain pastures (Dupré et al., 2015, p. 202). Today, pastures appear to be essential to avoid the closure of environments and to maintain a certain biodiversity attached to open environments or mosaics such as mountain gamefowl (Losinger et al., 2011). On a different level, major development projects in the mountains (ski resorts, dams, large-scale forestry operations or plantations etc.) can leave deep scars in the landscape and substantially transform the soil (e.g. through acidification). Ecological restoration projects can then be carried out to compensate for the effects of these developments (Granjou et al., 2010). Such restoration projects in mountain areas raise numerous issues relating to the fragility and specificity of the ecosystems (e.g. autochthony of the vegetation), which may be studied more closely. For example, the following questions could be addressed:

  • How do farmers integrate human, animal and environmental health issues into their grazing practices?

  • Which agricultural and/or (agro)pastoral practices and techniques favour a respectful use of mountain ecological resources and contribute to keeping the mountain socio-ecosystem ‘in good health’?

  • To what extent do ecological restoration projects help to maintain a healthy mountain?

Theme 3: Diseases, zoonoses and management practices in the mountains

From COVID-19 to avian and swine flu, the risks associated with the transmission of disease between wild animals, domestic animals and humans are all around us and compel us to rethink our relationship with animals and how they are managed. Given the type of risk, mountain areas are also affected, as shown by the crisis involving the ibex of Bargy, which for a few years undermined the strict protection of the ibex in France. The diagnosis of brucellosis in certain individuals and the risks that this disease represented for the Reblochon cheese industry brought many tensions and controversies into relief and raised questions about appropriate management methods from the short to the long term (Arpin, 2018). This type of event shows the use of the One Health approach in understanding the multiple issues of the emergence of a public problem and helps to analyse the plurality of discourses and approaches around a public health problem embedded in environmental health. The articles in this area will examine the health of (domestic and/or wild) animal populations and the management measures adopted. They may look back at historical aspects such as the eradication of rabies in the mountains, deal with specific case studies or adopt a more critical dimension of management measures in mountain environments to maintain a “healthy” mountain (management plans for protected areas, risk prevention plans etc.). What are the future impacts of zoonotic/parasite-related issues on ecosystem services in mountain environments, and which management strategies should be adopted?

Transversal theme: representations, values, attitudes and practices related to the human–animal–mountain environment triptych for a ‘healthy’ mountain

This transversal theme invites various contributions on the systems of individual and/or collective social and cultural representations that have developed around the human–animal–environment triptych (Bortolamiol et al., 2017, p. 396) regarding the theme of health. Mountain cultures around the world have developed certain values, myths, rituals relating to biotic (animals, plants) and abiotic (water, rocks) elements to promote the health of communities. Which (material and immaterial) values and attitudes are associated with the animals and mountains seen through the prism of One Health? Which social and cultural practices result?

This transversal theme will address how the multiple dimensions of humans’ holistic, close and reciprocal relationships to animals, each other and the mountain shape the sense of place in diverse mountain cultures from the Andes to the Himalayas to the mountains of Europe.

The purpose of the articles submitted

The articles submitted for this special issue may take different forms. We welcome articles that use a multidisciplinary perspective to present analyses of case studies by mobilising the concept of “One Health” in mountain territories or connect human well-being, animal well-being and ecological balance with each other. We also welcome articles that offer theoretical and reflective contributions on holistic approaches to health by examining what the idea of “a healthy mountain” might entail. Finally, articles that discuss the methodological challenges involved in implementing a “One Health” approach will also be appreciated.

Deadlines and instructions

The proposed articles must comply with the scientific aims of the journal, the principles of editing and the presentation guidelines. Instructions to the authors are available on the website and should be consulted.

Following the journal’s rules, each contribution will be reviewed and evaluated anonymously by two experts.

Article proposals, around 800 words in length, should be sent in French (for French-speaking authors) or English (for authors of other languages) by November 26th, 2021 to Laine Chanteloup ( and Thora Herrmann ( as well as Coralie Mounet, co-director of JAR/RGA (, and Olivier Vallade (, editorial secretary.

The selection of articles will be communicated on 29 November 2021.

Articles are expected by March 15th, 2022. Publication is scheduled for December 2022.

The article must be submitted in one of the languages of the journal: Alpine languages (i.e. French, Italian or German), Spanish or English. The author must commit to ensuring a translation into a second language after review (june 2022). One of the two versions must be in English. If the article is initially proposed in English, the translation must be in French.


Bibliography quoted

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