Kashmir Himalayas is a land of abundant natural resources with diverse landscapes however it has been affected by climate change and as a result the vegetation structure has been impacted severely. This article will seek to comprehend and analyze the importance of preserving the medicinal plant wealth in the Kashmir Himalayas.
During the survey from June to September 2018 to 2020, I found changes in the distributional pattern of medicinal plants and massive trees were grounded and when there will be no shady conditions then how will important medicinal plants grow in their native conditions. This is something that we need to seriously ponder upon
This year, the highest temperature was recorded for Gulmarg, Kupwara, Kokernag, Pahalgam for the month of August, 2020 with more than 7 degrees above average temperature. These areas are known for their scenic beauty and diverse vegetation structures where people visit to get relief from hot temperatures of summer.
In the month of September, pest outbreak was found over vibernum shrubs and on Coniferous trees in the Bungus valley of Kupwara as the longer and warmer growing seasons can intensify these effects resulting in severe moisture stress and drought.
Such conditions can lead to reductions in the growth and health of trees although the severity of the impacts depends on the forest characteristics, soil moisture, age-class structure and soil depth and type.
The Himalayas are experiencing a temperature increase that is higher than the global mean of about 0.7 °C in the last century. In particular, a strong increase in the mean temperature of about 1.7 °C was recorded in the Himalayas potentially inducing strong impact on the high-altitude ecosystems especially changes in the vegetation structure and biodiversity.
Recent studies in the Himalayas reveal that most of the areas are likely to experience a shift in vegetation types due to changing climate. Adaptation pathways in the face of changing climate include the replacement of the currently dominant species by a more thermophilous species.
As per reports of Prof. Shakeel Romshoo, the indicators of climate change are quite loud and clear in the Himalayas. They also observed depletion of 27.47 percent in the glacier area during the last 51 years in the Lidder valley which could be detrimental and hazardous for the valley and its diverse vegetation structure. There could also be potential flooding in the valley if this continues in the current climate change pattern.
Vegetation patterns (distribution, structure and ecology of forests) across the globe are controlled mainly by climate change. Even with global warming of 1-2 °C, much less than the most recent projections of warming during this century, most ecosystems and landscapes will be impacted through changes in species composition, productivity and biodiversity.
Reforestation is definitely an option to address this issue. Many countries are focussing on reforestation to address the issue of climate change and this may have some very positive effects in the long term.
Pakistan experienced a massive climate change issue but it went ahead with a massive reforestation program called the Billion Tree Tsunami and added 350,000 hectares of trees both by planting and natural regeneration.
According to the World Economic Forum Pakistan reached its Billion Tree Goal in August 2017. This is a very good example to follow for Kashmir as well; as reforestation is definitely an answer to address climate change.
Unfortunately, we are witnessing massive deforestation as in the form of huge patches cleared canopy in the Himalayan belt rather than afforestation in recent past four years of whose consequences we are facing in the entire Kashmir valley in various aspects.
Author is the Senior Research Fellow, Centre of Research for Development, Department of Environmental Science, University of Kashmir