Biodiversity in the Himalayas – Trends, Perception and Impacts of Climate Change (2008)

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Mountains are not only remarkably diverse, they are also important globally as centres of biological diversity. The greatest value of mountains is probably as sources of all the world’s major rivers, and those of the Himalayas are no less important in terms of providing ecosystem services that have thus far sustained huge human populations and rich biodiversity. The survival of these ecosystems and wildlife is now threatened by human activities such as timber harvesting, intensive grazing by livestock, agricultural expansion in to forest lands, and, above all, climate change. This paper presents findings from the Eastern Himalayas that have reconfirmed earlier studies that suggested that temperatures will continue to rise and rainfall patterns will become more variable, projecting both localised increases and decreases. The magnitude of climate change is predicted to be greater for the Eastern Himalayan region than projected by the International Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) for the Asian region. As a result, the altitudinal shift in vegetation belts is expected to be around 80-200 m per decade and is even expected to increase over time in high-altitude ecosystems as the rate of warming increases with altitude. Anecdotal evidence from various consultations revealed that there are many vulnerable entities ranging from species to ecosystems that need immediate attention. At present, there is limited and imprecise knowledge and scientific evidence about how climate change affects biodiversity and human wellbeing, and to address this limitation consistent data generation is a prerequisite. Should the present trend continue, the impact will be severe, considering the economic, sociopolitical, and technological shortcomings of the region. Local people need to increase their adaptive capacities. The International Centre for Integrated Mountain Development (ICIMOD) has devised landscape and transect approaches to bridge the gap in the medium and long term.
Year: 2008
Language: English
In: International Mountain Biodiversity Conference, Kathmandu, 16-18 November 2008, Plenary Session, 1: Climate Change and its Implications for Mountain, 1-14 p.