Projected climate change impacts on vegetation distribution over Kashmir Himalayas

Abstract

Despite high vulnerability, the impact of climate change on Himalayan ecosystem has not been properly investigated, primarily due to the inadequacy of observed data and the complex topography. In this study, we mapped the current vegetation distribution in Kashmir Himalayas from NOAA AVHRR and projected it under A1B SRES, RCP-4.5 and RCP-8.5 climate scenarios using the vegetation dynamics model-IBIS at a spatial resolution of 0.5°. The distribution of vegetation under the changing climate was simulated for the 21st century. Climate change projections from the PRECIS experiment using the HADRM3 model, for the Kashmir region, were validated using the observed climate data from two observatories. Both the observed as well as the projected climate data showed statistically significant trends. IBIS was validated for Kashmir Himalayas by comparing the simulated vegetation distribution with the observed distribution. The baseline simulated scenario of vegetation (1960–1990), showed 87.15 % agreement with the observed vegetation distribution, thereby increasing the credibility of the projected vegetation distribution under the changing climate over the region. According to the model projections, grasslands and tropical deciduous forests in the region would be severely affected while as savannah, shrubland, temperate evergreen broadleaf forest, boreal evergreen forest and mixed forest types would colonize the area currently under the cold desert/rock/ice land cover types. The model predicted that a substantial area of land, presently under the permanent snow and ice cover, would disappear by the end of the century which might severely impact stream flows, agriculture productivity and biodiversity in the region.

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Acknowledgments

The authors express gratitude to Dr. Christine Delire and another anonymous reviewer for their valuable comments and suggestions on the earlier versions of the manuscript that greatly improved the content and structure of this manuscript.

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Correspondence to Irfan Rashid.

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Rashid, I., Romshoo, S.A., Chaturvedi, R.K. et al. Projected climate change impacts on vegetation distribution over Kashmir Himalayas. Climatic Change 132, 601–613 (2015). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10584-015-1456-5

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Keywords

  • Indian Meteorological Department
  • Alien Invasive Species
  • Vegetation Distribution
  • Evergreen Broadleaf Forest
  • NOAA AVHRR