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A recent research paper published by scientists at the Kunming Institute of Botany has warned that large areas of grasslands, alpine meadows, wetlands and permafrost will disappear on the Tibetan plateau by 2050, entailing serious implications for environmental security in China and South Asia.

Experts have stressed that warming temperatures, with a dramatic infrastructure boom, a growing population and over grazing will damage the fragile ecosystems. Consequently, this situation will undermine the region's ability to provide key environmental services such as water and carbon storage to the rest of Asia, experts add.

The Tibetan plateau plays a key role being the source of Asian major rivers that support about 1.4 billion people downstream. The plateau also regulates regional climate systems, including the monsoon.

Data show that the Himalaya and Tibetan plateau are warming three times faster than the global average. Studies have revealed that rising temperatures have caused the melting of snow and glaciers and the degradation of permafrost (perennially frozen layers of soil which provide essential carbon and water storage).

According to experts, by 2050 there will be a rough 30% decrease in the ecosystems. Plants and animals that are living there today will be no longer present or will be present in reduced numbers, experts explain.

Recent reports outline that scientists are currently observing a range of climate change impacts from the region such as longer growing seasons, increased number of frost free days, more cloudy days and more frequent heavy rainfall. For example, in the eastern Himalayas alpine meadows have significantly reduced, with the loss of rare medicinal plants.

Additionally, other studies have revealed that around the sacred Mount Kailash region almost 40% of ecosystems will shift to a new state by 2050, representing a significant loss of rare alpine biodiversity.

However, these climate projections have raised concerns and uncertainties. Experts suggest that all these uncertainties and regional variances will not undermine the policymakers' ability to tackle climate change related issues on the Tibetan plateau.


The gLAWcal Team

EPSEI project

Friday, 31 October 2014