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Climate change causes Himalayan region wildlife and plants to shift upwards


KATHMANDU: The impacts of global warming and climate change are becoming clearly visible in the Himalayan region of Nepal. Observations made in the past five years in the Himalayan mountainous areas of the country show that wild animals are migrating to higher elevations due to rise in the temperatures.
Himalayan mountains have witnessed increasing snow melting which has affected the wildlife and vegetation occurrences in the higher areas, according to the vernacular Haka Haki magazine published by Nepal Forum of Environmental Journalists (NEFEJ).
In the changed climatic scenario, the plants and animals inhabiting in a particular mountain elevation have to shift to the upper areas or they will die out as they cannot tolerate the increased heat.
Environmental experts say that snow fed rivers like Lende, Lang Tang and Bhote Koshi have seen change in water flow in the past five years. A study conducted by the Journal of Development Innovations found that glacial and snow covered areas in the Lang Tang glacier has decreased from 142.06 square kilometres in 2009 to 135 square kilometres in 2019.
Climatic shifts are not visible overnight. Instead, they are taking place over the years and decades. Scientists say that temperatures have been rising in the Himalayan regions in higher rates than the global average. The rate of average annual temperature rise in Nepal stands at 0.06 degree Celsius.
A study conducted in the Lang Tang area found that Pika hares that were earlier inhabiting at the altitude of 2,800 metres had shifted up to the elevation of 3,500 metres in the period of five years. This indicates that wild animals in the Himalayas are migrating upwards due to increase in temperatures, said researcher Manoj Bhusal.
Five species of Himalayan butterflies that were earlier found at the altitude of 1900 metres can now be spotted at the elevation of 3028 metres, said environmental scientist Busal referring to the results of his study.
The mountain research carried out over months found that 20 species of plants that used to be found at the elevation of 2000 metres were later found at the altitude of 2300 metres.
The impacts of warming and climate change have been apparent in the lives of the Himalayan birds, Himalayan bear and snow leopards. They are migrating to higher altitudes.
A local resident Ngerup Tamang said that snow leopards used to frequent his village five years ago. Now these Himalayan wild cats have vanished. The farmers in this particular locality may be happy for the absence of the snow leopards for the safety of the domestic animals but these predators may have shown increased presence in other human settlements in higher elevations.
According to the Haka Haki magazine, Lang Tang National Park and the Friends of Nature had joined hands to carry out the Lang Tang study to look into the effects of climate change on wildlife and vegetation.
Wild boars that used to inhabit at the altitude of 2000 metres in Lang Tang have also shifted upwards due to temperature rise. The wild boars first migrated to Kenjing village located at the elevation of 3950 metres and later to Langsisa area at the altitude of 4500 metres. The wild boar migration has now affected the lives of the farmers living in higher villages. The national park has banned the hunting of wild boars. So the local people beat plates and drums to scare away the animal notorious for damaging crops.
A study done by the Friends of Nature in 2012 estimated wild boar population to be between 1294 and 2156. The study report said that these animals cause a loss of Rs. 38130 to each farming household in the area. Interestingly, some farmers were compelled to migrate from village due to wild boar menace. A local resident Subba Lama said that more than half of the farmland in the village is lying barren now.
“Many people are leaving the village because they could not continue farming here due to the raids of the wild animals. Only a few farmers are still in the occupation,” said Subba. The local people used to barter their potato, buckwheat and wheat with rice. Now the attraction of farming has decreased due to wildlife threats and people are shifting their livelihood to tourism.
However, climate change has also brought some positive results for the farmers of Lang Tang. Cold and frigid areas that were unfit for green vegetable farming have now become suitable for growing such vegetables. It is a surprising change which has enabled local farmers to grow vegetables like cabbage, cauliflower, radish and tomato. Finjo Tamang of Lang Tang village is a farmer who has started vegetable farming venture seizing the opportunity brought by the increase in temperature.
He planted vegetables on one ropani of land on experimental basis. Encouraged by good production, he has planned to expand the farming area. Tamang has used tunnel method for vegetable farming which controls the entry of frost and cold air. Many customers directly visit his farm to buy his organic vegetable products, according to the Haka Haki magazine.

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