Print Edition - 2015-10-26  |  Free the Words

Heating up

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Oct 26, 2015-

Nepal ranks in the 25th position in the world in terms of the richness of biodiversity. About 118 ecosystem types, 75 vegetation types and 35 forest types are found here. It’s also the habitat for 342 endemic plants and 160 endemic animal species. The role played by this wealth of biodiversity is most valuable. Different levels of climate change (CC) effects in Nepal can be ascertained from our present environmental condition. The average annual temperature is rising by 0.06 degree Celsius, no onset of the winter monsoon followed by a dry winter, disturbances in the ground water level, aridity and frequent droughts. The southern winter fog has extended to higher altitudes. Erratic rains and frequent droughts have been the prime factors for different disasters and hazards. The famed rhododendron flower which is found in the high hills is now flowering a month earlier than normal.

Talking about the future, there is a high risk of the disappearance of high altitude species, species shift, appearance of exotic invasive species, advance in the time of most seasonal events in the life of a plant and changes in the reproductive capacity and seasonal migration of wildlife. A loss of diverse insect species leads to a decrease in plant pollination thereby affecting food security. There will be a greater risk of wildfires in the mid-hills due to an arid climate. The Tarai will be experiencing hotter nights in the summer and colder temperatures in the winter. Many glacier-fed streams will experience glacial lake outburst floods due to glaciers melting and retreating. An explosion of new pests and insects, spread of pathogenic fungus in high rain-fed areas, vector-borne diseases, loss of original gene banks due to greater use of hybrid seeds to fulfil growing demand, greater risks of natural disasters and a reduction in ecological resilience are some of the problems that we will be encountering.

The ability to adapt to and cope with CC depends on the different means and resources available in the country. Being a poor developing country, we lack technology for research to explore different flora and fauna. A study has revealed that Nepal ranks in 13th position in terms of vulnerability to biodiversity loss due to the effects of CC. In this regard, the government needs to take a rationale decision at the national and global levels and make effective plans and policies to mitigate the CC problem. The government needs to present our strategy against CC issues and problems at the Paris Climate Change Conference scheduled to be held in November. One of its main goals is limiting the earth’s temperature to 2 degrees Celsius above preindustrial levels.

Changes in community composition, distribution, phenology and abundance of species will surely affect the structure and function of our ecosystem. We cannot calculate the costs of letting the trend of environmental degradation continue. If suitable steps aren’t taken, there we will be lack of food; and our lives will change in unpredictable ways.

Published: 26-10-2015 08:54

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