Vulnerable mountains

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- NIKITA FUYAL

Sep 14, 2018-

Mountain ecosystems are extremely vulnerable to climate change. Mountains are among the most fragile environments on earth. Due to a fragile and poorly accessible landscape with sparsely scattered settlements and poor infrastructure, little research and assessment has been conducted on mountain ecosystems even though that is where it is needed most. Climate will have a significant effect on all natural ecosystems, but the impact will be far greater on the already stressed ecosystem of the eastern Himalaya.

The eastern Himalaya extends from the Kali Gandaki Valley in central Nepal to northwest Yunnan, China and parts of northern Myanmar. The complex mountain topography has created diverse bioclimatic zones and island-like conditions for many species and populations making them reproductively isolated. The isolation has given rise to genetic differences among populations, thereby contributing to the exceptionally rich array of biodiversity in the eastern Himalaya.

The eastern Himalaya has been in the spotlight as it contains biodiversity hotspots, endemic bird areas, mega diversity countries and global eco-regions. Climate change is a global issue and it threatens the existence of life on earth. But the eastern Himalaya is particularly vulnerable to climate change due to its ecological fragility and economic marginality. The impacts of climate change in the region include changes in the hydrological regime, an increase in hazard frequency and intensity and impacts on human health. There is noteworthy evidence regarding a significant increment in many extreme weather events in the region such as heat waves, tropical cyclones, prolonged dry spells, intense rainfall, snow avalanches, thunderstorms and severe dust storms which are the consequences of the ongoing climate change.

Climate change has increased the risk of extinction of species that are confined within the narrow geographic and climatic range of the eastern Himalaya. There is a special risk factor for highland species, invasive species, threatened species and endemic species in the eastern Himalaya which are sensitive to climate change and are more likely to become extinct. Changes have also been observed in the timing of hibernation, migration and breeding in animals. A number of glacial lakes in the eastern Himalaya have the potential to burst, leading to a glacial lake outburst flood (GLOF) with catastrophic consequences for nature and humans. And these GLOF events can have a widespread impact on the socioeconomic situation, hydrology and ecosystems.

Climate change has a prominent range of health impacts across the eastern Himalaya due to the failure of food security, diseases and injury which are again the ultimate outcomes of extreme weather events. Even though the eastern Himalaya has almost no contribution to global greenhouse gas emissions, this region is highly vulnerable to the devastating impacts of ongoing climate change. From this, what we can realise is that those who have contributed almost nothing to climate change has suffered more.

Published: 14-09-2018 07:28

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