THE Himalayas are warming at a rate higher than the global average. A recent study documents how this has affected cropping patterns and vegetation in the past 10 years.
The questionnaire-based study examined changes people observed between the altitudes of 600 metres and 2,200 metres in the Himalayas. Published in the journal Current Science on March 25, it shows the flowering and fruiting time of economically important trees has changed.
Yields of cash crops like potato, ginger, peas and beans are no longer what they used to be a decade ago. The pear tree, which bore fruits in July, now also give fruits in December and January.
The study found kaphal fruits (Myrica sapinda, Myrica nagi) started ripening in March-April, instead of May-June. Hinsalu (Rubus ellipticus) now fruits less. Fodder trees like utees (Alnus nepalensis), kwiral (Bauhinia variegata) and kanol (Bauhinia purpurea) show decline in productivity.
About 10 years ago, the invasive weed Eupatorium showed up at an altitude of 1,000 metres. After a years it was seen higher at 1,800 metres.
Researchers found climate change severely affects the day-to-day lives of people directly dependent on agriculture and horticulture.
The study can add to bigger studies done world over on the impact of climate change. Though anecdotal information is available, enough studies have not been conducted to understand the impact of climate change.
“Local observations could be used to devise mitigation and adaptation strategies on regional scales,” says P K Joshi, lead author of the study and associate professor at Teri University.
K S Rao, department of Botany, Delhi University, however, says, “One needs to give weightage to ecological studies to learn the flexibility of organisms to adjust to change rather than blindly accept climate change by interviewing people.”