Climate Change and Its Impact on Forest of Indian Himalayan Region: A Review
The Indian Himalayan Region (IHR) forms the northern boundary of India covering an area of about 5.3 lakh km2, which constitutes 16.2% of the total geographical area. The region is remarkable for its diversity of plants and animals and provides abundant ecosystem services to people. The Indian Himalayas (IH) is richly endowed with forest resources and supports different types of forest ecosystems along with varied topography. In addition to anthropogenic factors, the forests of IH are under pressure due to changing climate. There are several pieces of evidence of significant changes in temperature, precipitation, and vegetation phenology in IHR. Climate change (CC) has a significant impact on forest ecosystems of IH which results in the upward movement of several plant species, and further changes are expected to cause the extinction of species. Due to changing climatic conditions in IHR, possibly some of the locations may become more favorable to alien invasive species causing negative impacts on native plants. Changing temperature and rainfall in the region have caused phenological changes in many economically and ecologically important plant species like Rhododendron sp., Myrica esculenta, Pinus wallichiana, etc. As a result of which these species are shifting towards higher elevations to cope up with altered climate. A significant reduction in suitable habitat and the massive decline in the population of animal species due to climate change is also predicted. The studies carried out in IHR indicated shifts in vegetation types across IHR from moderate to large scale. Higher elevation Himalayan temperate forests, subalpine forests, and alpine forests are more vulnerable to the adverse effects of climate change while Sal forests are predicted to shift towards the north-eastern region. Western Himalayan forests are highly susceptible to changing climate while eastern Himalayan forests are estimated to be more resilient.