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The Climate Change Conundrum and the Himalayan Forests: The Way Forward into the Future

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Abstract

The earth’s climate has always been changing, but with current rate of change, forests might not be able to adapt to rapid changes in climate variables, along with increased risk of extreme climate events. Climate change has significantly altered structure, composition and distribution patterns of forests across the globe. The Himalayan forests are sensitive to climate change impacts, but the extent and magnitude of potential response is still not well-understood. Climate change, however, cannot be considered as the only driving force responsible for changes in the type, distribution and coverage of vegetation, as other anthropogenic disturbances equally play a crucial role in accelerating the alterations in this region. With the impeding uncertainties involving climate change and increased dependence of communities on forests and forest-based resources, adaptation must be considered along with mitigation in the foreseeable future. The limited understanding of ecosystem dynamics in the Himalayan region poses a grand challenge for many research programmes in ecology and conservation. The scientific literature shows efforts to model species distribution based on current climate conditions and forecast species distribution based on future climate scenarios. These studies indicate the possibility of extinction and migration of many species; nonetheless, they fail to integrate human influence to changing environmental conditions. Addressing potential impacts of climate change is both urgent and difficult. The hypothesis foretelling the future requires much improvement in its forecasting skills in order to accurately predict the eventual fate for sustainable forest management.

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Acknowledgments

AC would like to acknowledge HSBC Climate Scholarship of TERI University for funding her doctoral research. RS, KS and PKJ would like to acknowledge the Ministry of Environment and Forests and Climate Change (MoEFCC), Government of India (GoI) for their support (Project Serial Number: R&D/NNRMS/2/2013-14). PSR would like to acknowledge the National Academy of Science India (NASI). Authors are thankful to the anonymous reviewers for providing valuable comments to enhance the quality of the manuscript.

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Chakraborty, A., Shukla, R., Sachdeva, K. et al. The Climate Change Conundrum and the Himalayan Forests: The Way Forward into the Future. Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci., India, Sect. B Biol. Sci. 88, 837–847 (2018). https://doi.org/10.1007/s40011-016-0788-x

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