Signs of climate change are visible all over the world, from rising global temperatures and melting glaciers which is, in turn, increasing the sea levels. The melting of the glaciers in Uttarakhand is also increasing the risk of the deterioration of the ecosystem, and disturbing the life in and around the Himalayan range.
The fourth report of the U.N.’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) predicts the extinction of Himalayan glaciers by 2035. Since then, there has been a stir not only in India but all over Asia. This reaction is natural because if there are no more glaciers, then the existence rivers like the Mahanadi, Ganga, and Brahmaputra cannot be imagined. This further endangers the future of Afghanistan, Pakistan, India, Tibet, Nepal, and Bhutan.
Due to increasing pollution and changes in the habitat, along with changes in the glaciers of the Himalayas, the vegetation of the Himalayas is also being affected and is now growing at a higher altitude than before. It is also important to talk about the changes in the treeline and snowline.
Nearly seven hundred-years-old, Okjökull was a glacier in Iceland, which finally melted down enough for it to lose its status of a ‘glacier’. It is claimed that this is the first glacier which has been completely removed from the world map due to climate change.
There have been reports of melting of glaciers in our country and natural disasters due to this, but considering it as a major threat, the attention of the courts has also gone here. Three years ago, the Nanital High Court took an initiative in this matter and declared all the hill stations and glaciers in the state as ‘eco-sensitive’ in three months and prohibited all types of construction work in an area of twenty-five kilometres of glaciers.
If you are not from any Himalayan region or do not know about the Himalayan forest area, then you need to know what treeline and snowline are.
Mainly in the hills, the extent and the height to which trees grow is called treeline. The height from which the glacier or snow cover starts is called a snowline.
Scientists at the University of Exeter published a research paper in a journal titled ‘Global Change of Biology’ which said that the number of grasses and shrubs that flourish in Mount Everest and other high altitudes of the Himalayas has increased. For this, images obtained between the years 1993 to 2018 by the NASA’s Landsat satellite.
In the pictures taken during the last few years on the Himalayas, there has been a change in the vegetation at an altitude between 4150 m to 6000 m. The maximum difference is seen at altitudes from 5000 to 5500 meters.
A study last year revealed that the shrinking rate of glaciers in the Himalayas doubled between the years 2000 and 2016. Asia’s 10 largest rivers originate from the Himalayan glaciers and the 1.4 billion population is dependent on these water sources. The area of grasses and shrubs found between the tree line and the snow line is important and its area is 5 to 15 times higher than the snow-covered area of the Himalayas.
From 1990 to 1999 the change in height was only 10 meters, But in the decade that followed, the gap reached 350 meters. The Himalayan blue pine was not found until more than 3,000 meters until two decades ago, but now it can be easily seen even at 4,000 meters altitude.
This is the condition of a bush called Parthenium and also of some flora that grows in water. The condition of apple and pear orchards is the same. Now they are being cultivated on areas at a higher altitude than before. When their range is expanding, some vegetation may also be extinct, and if this happens then we will never know about this flora.
The wealth of the Himalayan flora is incomparable. More than 10% of the total species of flora and fauna living in the world are found in the Himalayas. More than half of these species are endemic. That is, they are not found anywhere in the world except in the Himalayas.