The Hindu

Climb or per­ish — Hi­malayan plant species trek to sur­vive

Frag­ile per-gla­cial ecosys­tems have seen a de­ple­tion in sev­eral species, says a Botan­i­cal Sur­vey of In­dia study

- Shiv Sa­hay Singh Biology · Animals · Zoology · Science · Ecology · Plants · Climate Change · Wildlife · Jammu and Kashmir · Kashmir · India · Himalayas · Flora

Found from Ku­maon to Kash­mir at el­e­va­tions of 3,000 to 5,000 me­ters, the Blue poppy, Me­conopis ac­culette, is con­sid­ered the

Queen of Hi­malayan

Flow­ers.

How­ever, a re­cent com­par­a­tive study of abun­dance of the species in alpine moraines at dif­fer­ent el­e­va­tions in­di­cated that it is slowly de­plet­ing at lower al­ti­tudes and rocky moraines. High alpine rock screes — small, loose stones and rock frag­ments — and lat­eral periglacia­l moraines seem to be the core oc­cu­pancy zone of the species.

Not only the Blue Poppy but sev­eral other flow­er­ing plants, found at very high al­ti­tudes, are fac­ing the “climb higher or die” sit­u­a­tion due to cli­mate change.

De­tails of the vul­ner­a­ble periglacia­l species and their sur­vival strate­gies have been recorded in a publi­ca­tion from the Botan­i­cal Sur­vey of In­dia ( BSI) in a re­cent study: “Periglacia­l Flora of West­ern Hi­malayas Di­ver­sity And Cli­mate Change Vul­ner­a­bil­ity”.

The publi­ca­tion lists 243 such plants found at very high al­ti­tude, frag­ile ecosys­tems.

Vul­ner­a­ble habi­tats

Plants be­long­ing to the group Saus­surea, such as the en­dan­gered Himka­mal, in­clud­ing Saus­surea Ob­val­lata and Saus­surea gnaphaloid­es, have been found vul­ner­a­ble to habi­tat loss and pop­u­la­tion de­ple­tion. Re­searchers also recorded that the Solms-laubachia hi­malayen­sis, a high-al­ti­tude flow­er­ing plant, was now found at higher reaches, above 6,000 me­tres.

The re­searchers also list ex­tremely habi­tat sen­si­tive periglacia­l en­demic species which showed dif­fer­ent lev­els of de­ple­tion.

Species be­long­ing to the genus Co­ry­dalis like Co­ry­dalis vi­o­lacea and Co­ry­dalis meifo­lia, and Wald­hemia vestita — com­monly named Wolly Ground Daisy — are among those with fall­ing num­bers.

Dur­ing the re­cent field ex­plo­ration, sci­en­tists could not lo­cate Se­dum seele­manni, known only by the type col­lec­tion in 1886, rais­ing the alarm­ing prospect of the species hav­ing gone ex­tinct.

Based on field data

“We had data of the habi­tat of the peri-gla­cial flow­er­ing plants from the 1960s, which was pub­lished in 1975. This publi­ca­tion is based on field data col­lected only a few years ago and gives an idea about the hor­i­zon­tal and ver­ti­cal move­ments of the species,” said D.K. Singh, for­mer BSI sci­en­tist and one of the au­thors.

The publi­ca­tion not only lists the prime vul­ner­a­ble species but also records ac­cli­ma­ti­sa­tion and dom­i­nance of cer­tain species like the Hi­may­layan sor­rel (Rumex nepalen­sis), which has not only be­come dom­i­nant but also crowded out cer­tain alpine medic­i­nal herbs be­cause of its in­va­sive na­ture.

“To­day, the species is lit­er­ally found in every Hi­malayan val­ley of the west­ern Hi­malayas,” the publi­ca­tion states.

 ??  ?? Me­conop­sis ac­uleata
Me­conop­sis ac­uleata
 ??  ?? Saus­surea gnaphalode­s
Saus­surea gnaphalode­s

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