Friday 10 January 2020

More plants growing around Everest

More plants growing around Everest

Scientists from Exeter University used satellite data from NASA to measure the extent of plants growing between the treeline and snowline, the subnival zone.

Satellite images were used because it is a vast, difficult to reach, area of the Himalayas.

As a result little is known about these ecosystems, made up of short plants (mainly grasses and shrubs) and seasonal snow, but the study reveals they cover between 5 and 15 times the area of permanent glaciers and snow.

The researchers measured small but significant increases in subnival vegetation cover across four height brackets from 4,150-6,000 metres above sea level.

Around Mount Everest, the team found a significant increase in vegetation in all four height brackets. Conditions at the top of this height range have generally been considered to be close to the limit of where plants can grow.

Though the study didn’t examine the causes of the change, the findings are consistent with modelling that global warming is causing a decline in areas where temperatures are too low for plants to grow.

Other research has suggested Himalayan ecosystems are highly vulnerable to climate-induced vegetation shifts.

Increased plant life could have an effect on the region’s water supply. The area is known as Asia’s water towers and feeds the ten largest rivers in Asia. More than 1.4 billion people depend on water coming from the region.

Written by

Bruna Pinhoni

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