Srinagar: A new study has revealed that the alpine vegetation of Kashmir Himalayas is facing an existential threat due to climate change sweeping across the globe

Entitled, “Early Evidence of Shifts in Alpine Summit Vegetation: A Case Study from Kashmir Himalaya,” the first of its kind study was conducted by the University of Kashmir in corroboration with ISRO. The study has been published in the prestigious journal of Frontiers in Plant Science in 2020.

The scientists conducting the study have observed a stretch of Apharwat Mountain in Gulmarg to obtain crucial scientific data on the impact of climate change on the alpine vegetation of Kashmir Himalaya.

Alpine vegetation implies vegetation that grows on high altitudes which is crucial for the survival of wildlife.

Assistant Professor and Researcher at Centre for Biodiversity & Taxonomy, Department of Botany, University of Kashmir, Dr Anzar Khuroo said Alpine vegetation and soils above the treeline are shaped by extreme conditions.

“Alpine plants must adapt to high winds, low temperatures, scouring and burial by snow and ice, intense solar radiation, and a short growing season. As a result, plants are shorter, some grow slowly, and many have leaves resistant to frost damage and desiccation,” he said.

Dr. Anzar, however, said little is known about the alpine vegetation responses to recent climate change in the rapidly warming Himalaya.

“This type of study has only been undertaken in Europe. After that, ours is the first study of its kind in the Himalayan belt of South Asia,” Dr. Anzar said.

The findings of the study showed that warming of climate can lead to plant species adapted to cold habitats being severely impacted.

“We observed that the lower elevation plants move into the alpine, outnumbering the high elevation plants, resulting in the overall species richness. Subsequently, it also results in the decrease in the local endemic species,” another co-author of the study, Dr. Akhtar H Malik said.

Researchers have suggested more research needs to be conducted to study the impact of warming on alpine summit eco-systems. “Alpine vegetation changes have widespread consequences for the proper functioning of the eco-system and thereby need to be studied more extensively,” the study concluded. 

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When the world fails to make sense, Hirra Azmat seeks solace in words. Both worlds, literary and the physical lend color to her journalism.

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