Mountains are important because they influence regional and global weather conditions and climate. They provide human beings with medicinal products, food, biodiversity, energy and freshwater. Mountains provide home for 720 million people, according to the United Nations Development Programme.
Billions of people living in lowlands benefit from mountains. They are the sources of both major and small rivers on Earth. Mountains also play an important role in the water cycle because they capture moisture from the atmosphere and release it in the form of snow or water, which is essential for industries, settlements and agricultural activities downstream. Water from mountains is also used to generate hydroelectric power. Renewable energy from mountains promotes economic development, especially in rural areas.
In developing countries, wood fuel from mountains is the main source of energy for settlements. Mountain wood provides timber for local use and export. Mountains are centers of biodiversity, because they have plant, crop and animal diversity. They are also the sources of wild foods, such as mushrooms, birds and game. Mountains also provide ground for recreation, sporting and tourism activities.
However, mountains are prone to land degradation, climate change, natural disasters and deforestation. Their populations often suffer from poverty, marginalization and lack of access to education and health services.