Posts Tagged "himalayas"

High Altitude Plants Discovered in the Himalayas

Posted by on Nov 23, 2016 in All Posts, Featured Posts, News | 0 comments

High Altitude Plants Discovered in the Himalayas

Spread the News:ShareMelting glaciers in the Himalayas have exposed land underneath, allowing new forms of life to migrate to deglaciated landscapes. Recently, these glacial changes have led to the discovery of the world’s highest altitude vascular plants, made possible by the early colonization of microbes in the space left by retreating glacier ice, according to a recent report in the journal Microbial Ecology. It was during a 2012 expedition that researchers first recorded six plants at an unprecedented altitude in India, 6,150 meters above sea level. The plants were growing in a small patch of undeveloped soil. The glaciers in the region had rapidly receded since the 1990s due to a spike in temperatures in the region. As a sparsely populated, cold desert with limited rainfall, the northwestern Himalayas present arid and highly stressful conditions to plants. Still, the six plants seemed to be in stable condition, according to the researcher’s report. Based on the monitored temperature and snow cover, there were only a few weeks per year that these plants could use for growth. The researchers emphasize that these are vascular plants, with tissues that contain vessels that conduct water and dissolved nutrients. But how does plant life first reach these deglaciated landscapes once the glaciers have receded? By definition, subnival zones are places where plants and microorganisms can grow and refers to the altitudinal zone between the nival zone of permanent snow (nival) and the alpine zone, the highest area of extensive vegetation, characterized by low shrubs, grasses, and cushion plants. Microorganisms such as bacteria and some types of fungi colonize subnival zones within a few years of glacial recession, making way for plants and other life forms. Bacteria and fungi typically arrive first to the deglaciated landscape because they disperse more easily and are more stress-tolerant. They disperse spores that travel in the wind to reach remote places high in mountainous regions. Because the glaciers have receded from the section of the Himalayas visited by the researchers, an opportunity arrives for microorganisms to live in the soil that was once buried underneath the ice and snow. There are several biological processes by which these microorganisms help develop the soil and allow plants to grow. For one, many bacteria can carry out photosynthesis, using sunlight to synthesize food from carbon dioxide and water. Some bacteria and fungi can also carry out nitrogen fixation, which is the process of converting nitrogen in the atmosphere to ammonia, more readily absorbed by plants. The nitrogen, in turn, can be used by other organisms. These biological processes help cultivate the soil in deglaciated landscapes by depositing nutrients, which ultimately allow plants to grow. Plant seeds and spores, also dispersed by the wind, make their way to high elevation areas. But once there, the plants rely on microorganisms to supply minerals and fix nitrogen. Rooey Angel, a coauthor of the report on the high altitude plants, talked to GlacierHub about his team’s findings. “Indeed, microbial colonisation of glacial forefield is crucial for starting soil development processes, release of minerals from soil particles, accumulation of organic carbon and nitrogen fixation,” he said. “However, with respect to nitrogen, it is important to remember that there’s a large effect of atmospheric nitrogen deposition on the forefield ecosystem, which makes nitrogen fixation less crucial.” Once plants arrive up the mountain, they further enrich the soil in deglaciated landscapes with organic matter and nutrients through a process of rhizodeposition (in which roots release organic compounds into the environment) and by weathering the bedrock. The soil surrounding the plant and containing its roots, known as the rhizosphere, is...

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Roundup: River Outlets, Plant Habitats, and Village Partners

Posted by on Oct 10, 2016 in All Posts, Featured Posts, Roundup | 0 comments

Roundup: River Outlets, Plant Habitats, and Village Partners

Spread the News:ShareRoundup: Canadian River Vanishes, Plants in the Himalayas and Pakistan’s Villages Glacier retreat in Canada causes Yukon river to vanish. From CBCNews: “It’s been the main source of water into Yukon’s Kluane Lake for centuries, but now the Slims River has suddenly slimmed down — to nothing. ‘What folks have noticed this spring is that it’s essentially dried up,” said Jeff Bond of the Yukon Geological Survey. ‘That’s the first time that’s happened, as far as we know, in the last 350 years.’ What’s happened is some basic glacier hydrology, Bond says — essentially, the Kaskawulsh Glacier has retreated to the point where its melt water is now going in a completely different direction, away from the Slims Valley. Instead of flowing north 19 kilometres from the glacier’s toe into Kluane Lake (and ultimately, the Bering Sea), that melt water is now draining eastward via the Kaskawulsh River towards the Pacific Ocean off the Alaska panhandle. It’s a reminder that glacier-caused change is not always glacial-paced.” Read more about the effects of glacier retreat on the Slims River here:   The world’s highest vascular plants found in Indian Himalayas. From Microbial Ecology: “Upward migration of plants to barren [just below the snowl areas is occurring worldwide due to raising ambient temperatures and glacial recession. In summer 2012, the presence of six vascular plants, growing in a single patch, was recorded at an unprecedented elevation of 6150 m.a.s.l. close to the summit of Mount Shukule II in the Western Himalayas (Ladakh, India). Whilst showing multiple signs of stress, all plants have managed to establish stable growth and persist for several years.” Learn more about the role of microbes in the process of plant upward migration here.   Local struggles in Pakistan show adaptations to glacier thinning. From Erdkunde: “Framing adaptation as a process of assemblage-building of heterogeneous human and non-human [actors], two village case studies are investigated where glacier thinning has dried up a source of irrigation water, turning cropland into desert. While in the first case case, villagers were able to construct a new and extraordinary water supply scheme with the help of external development agencies, in the second case, several approaches to utilize alternative water sources over three decades were unsuccessful. An account of the adaptation assemblages shows how a diversity of actants such as individual leaders, community, external agencies, construction materials, landslides and geomorphological features play variable and contingent roles in the success or failure of adaptation efforts, thus co-defining their outcome in complex ways.” Learn more about the adaption efforts to glacier thinning in northern Pakistan here. Spread the...

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Himalayan Region Considers Climatic Threat to Hydropower Future

Posted by on Sep 15, 2016 in Communities, Featured Posts, News, Science | 0 comments

Himalayan Region Considers Climatic Threat to Hydropower Future

Spread the News:ShareGlacial melt is threatening the Hindu Kush Himalayan region’s development of potential hydropower. A recent forum convened by the Kathmandu-based organization International Centre for Integrated Mountain Development (ICIMOD) highlighted the climatic and social challenges that accompany the establishment and sustainability of the region’s hydropower sector. The Sept. 1 event event, “Managing climate and social risks key to hydropower development,” held in Stockholm, Sweden, was co-organized with the Stockholm International Water Institute, in addition to the research and consulting organization FutureWater and Statkraft, a Norwegian state-owned hydropower company. The Hindu Kush Himalayan region has nearly 500 GW hydropower potential, but only a fraction of it has been developed, despite the “increased climatic and social risks” this problem creates, according to ICIMOD.  “There is a need to manage risks so that the mountains and the plains derive sustainable benefits from the region’s rich hydropower potential,” said David Molden, the Director General of ICIMOD, according to the organization’s media release. The Asian mountain range extends across eight countries, from Afghanistan into Myanmar. Collectively, the biodiverse region, with 10 major river basins, directly supports the livelihoods of more than 210 million mountain inhabitants. The Hindu Kush Himalayan region, sometimes called HKH, also has the highest concentration of snow and glaciers outside the polar region, with 54,252 glaciers identified last year — meaning 1.4 percent of the region is glaciated. Glacial retreat, onset by the impacts of climate change and warming atmospheres, varies, but has been observed across all HKH glaciers in the last few decades. Overall, the decrease in glacial mass in this region over the last several decades has been among the most pronounced worldwide. “This surely is one of the most vulnerable regions,” said Molden during a video interview at the event. “It is highly vulnerable to climate change and the people in the mountains are not the ones emitting the greenhouse gases, but really the ones paying the price for climate change. Some of the issues we are seeing are melting ice, permafrost… changes in rainfall patterns that will make a big difference in this region… we really have to pay attention to the area.” Over 80 percent of the glaciers in the Himalayas have not been researched, as GlacierHub previously reported. Glacial Lake Outburst Floods (GLOFs) in the area, along with landslides, have also increased in recent years, placing “existing and planned hydropower plants at risk,” according to the organization. While the Indian Himalayas has the potential to produce 150,000 MW of hydropower each year, only 27 percent of that power has actually been developed. In Nepal, only 2 percent of the region’s hydropower sources are utilized. Companies at the September meeting expressed concern about a number of risks in generating hydrpower in the region, Molden said in the video interview. The first step, he explained, is understanding the challenges. These include tracking changes in hydrology water resources that come from glacial melt. While melting glaciers increase water flows in rivers  for short periods of time, their contribution to river systems will gradually lessen. There are also challenges related to GLOFs, and the damage the outburst floods could inflict on hydropower plants. Aditi Mukherji, ICIMOD’s theme leader in water and air, spoke at at the meeting, presenting on how while hydropower is produced in the mountains of India, for example, mountain people there do not always receive direct commensurate benefits from the production of the energy sources. The consultation of communities in the construction of hydropower plants was also highlighted as another ongoing issue. Martin Hornsberg, of Statkraft, also presented at the conference, discussing how many run-off-river hydropower plants...

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Aromatic, Medicinal Plants Flourish in the Himalayas

Posted by on Apr 28, 2016 in All Posts, Communities, Featured Posts, Science | 0 comments

Aromatic, Medicinal Plants Flourish in the Himalayas

Spread the News:ShareIn the region of the Himalayas from Bhutan, Nepal, and India, many aromatic plants grow and comprise a part of local people’s lives as medicine and food. In their review paper “Himalayan Aromatic Medicinal Plants: A Review of their Ethnopharmacology, Volatile Phytochemistry, and Biological Activities” in the journal Medicines, Rakesh K. Joshi, Prabodh Satyal, and William N. Setzer analyze in detail the nutritional and medicinal value of 116 aromatic plant species. The Himalayas are well-known as the world’s highest mountain range. The authors’ research area, located in the southern margin of the Himalaya range, is actually a narrow band of biodiversity. It is called by some researchers the center of plant diversity in the Himalayas. The monsoon brings rains concentrated in the summer and contributes a great deal to the rich biodiversity. The authors report, citing prior research, that “The Indian Himalaya is home to more than 8000 species of vascular plants of which 1748 are known for their medicinal properties.” The authors of the review paper indicated that the plants growing in high elevation are important for local people. Those plants provide both nutrition and medicinal functions. Some of those wild plants have been eaten by people since ancient times, while the medicinal effects have been noticed just recently. In the article, the authors list the ethnopharmacology, biological activities, and essential oil compositions of Himalayan aromatic plants. Some of them not only are useful but have some special characteristics. For example, there are around 400 species in the genus Artemisia, like mugwort and wormwood, growing in the temperate regions, and 19 species of this genus in Himalayan regions have been recognized as medicinal herbs. The plants of this genus are traditional medicines discovered a long time ago by indigenous cultures. Most species have strong aromas, and can be smelled from a long distance. Due to their strong aromas, some of the plants in this genus are used as incense and insecticide. For example, the leaf extract of Artemisia japonica is used to treat malaria, while a paste of the leaves is applied externally to treat skin diseases in northern Pakistan. Another species, Artemisia maritima, is used by several Himalayan peoples to treat stomach problems and intestinal worms. When it comes to the Cinnamomum genus, which is in the laurel family, many people are quite familiar with the common spice, cinnamon. Chefs treat it as one important flavor and some people like cinnamon flavored coffee or tea. The Cinnamomum genus is another typical aromatic plant that are green from spring to winter. Their aromatic oils are preserved in the leaves and bark. In the Himalayan areas, eight out of 250 total species have been found. There are still many other genus of aromatic plants providing food and medicine for local people in the Himalayan places, such as the genus Cymbopogon, which is also known as lemongrass. With its distinct environment of glacial and river valleys, the Himalayas nurture a rich biodiversity. Traditional herbs still play an important role in people’s health. More species are joining in the group of medicinal herbs. As a result, it should be highlighted that plants in Himalayas demand protection considering the challenge of climate change, environmental degradation, and other threats. Spread the...

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ICIMOD Conference Focuses on Climate Change in Himalayas

Posted by on Apr 7, 2016 in All Posts, Featured Posts, News, Policy and Economics | 0 comments

ICIMOD Conference Focuses on Climate Change in Himalayas

Spread the News:ShareThe International Centre for Integrated Mountain Development (ICIMOD) held a conference, “Climate and Environmental Change Impacts in Indus Basin Waters,”in Kathmandu in February. At this conference, scientists shared the common idea that a lack of data on the Himalayas is impeding their knowledge of the region and how climate change might affect it— and how that, in turn, could affect the region’s many millions of people. Over 80 people attended the conference, which was also supported by  the World Bank, and the International Water Management Institute (IWMI).  It was focused on improving understanding of research on climate change’s effects in the Indus basin. The importance of this basin was underscored by Dr Eklabya Sharma, Director, Programme Operations at ICIMOD, who told the conference, “The Indus River supports a population of about 215 million inhabitants of Afghanistan, China, India and Pakistan whose livelihoods are directly or indirectly dependent on it.” He indicated that cooperation among these nation was a necessary step for the development of research to understand climate change impacts in this basin. The conference’s opening speech was delivered by Hafeez-ur-Rehman, the chief minister of Gilgit-Baltistan,  a large autonomous region in northern Pakistan . “The seasonal shift in snowfall to late spring and the subsequent heat waves lasting two to three days have caused rapid melting of snow — preventing glacier formation — flash floods, early avalanches, and loss of life and property,” Rehman said, according to a statement. James Clarke, the director of Communications and Marketing of IWMI, followed with a speech to welcome journalists from all four Indus basin countries, signaling the importance of the media and of outreach to civil society.  "Water is shrinking to a level of being unsustainable" says Dr. Arif Anwar @IWMI_ #Indus Basin #media dialogue pic.twitter.com/Ccvnfx6Odc — Farah Ahmed (@farahamds) February 20, 2016 According to Tobias Bolch, a glaciologist from the University of Zurich, over 80 percent of glaciers in the Himalayas haven’t been researched. “The bulk of the glaciers in Himalayas are yet to be studied in detail,” Bolch said, according to a report on SciDev.net. There are still many problems with scientific assessments and appropriate policy action because of significant uncertainties on Himalayan glacier changes. Scientific studies and data are currently inadequate for analysis of the status and trends of glaciers in the Himalayas. This in turn impedes the development of future predictions about the region, and obstructs effective action to adapt to anticipated changes there. The conference took some concrete steps to address this need for regional coordination of research.  It suggested the importance of strengthening the Upper Indus Basin Network, a group which promotes coordination among organizations in the region and the involvement of policy holders and other stakeholders in defining research programs. This Upper Indus Basin Network includes ICIMOD as well as other organizations, including Pakistan Meteorological Department (PMD), the Pakistan Water and Power Development Authority (WAPDA), the branch of the World Wildlife Fund in Gilgit Baltistan, and FOCUS Humanitarian Assistance, which is part of the Aga Khan Development Network. These organizations have already collaborated on other issues, including water resources and biodiversity protection. They have issued policy briefs which discuss concrete forms of management and governance for more effective water use under conditions of climate change. The conference lent provided strong support to this network at a critical moment, when collaboration is an urgent  need. As Shakil Romshoo, of Kashmir University, told SciDev.Net, a lack of data and modeling impede studying glaciers and climate change. “Such constraints do not allow us to make scientific estimates as to how the future climate change will affect the water resources of Indus basin,” he said. The conference may well help the different parties in the region work together to...

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