Low rainfall and high CO2 could replace India's biodiversity hotspots: Study

Forest representation image

Greenhouse gases are rising at an unprecedented rate that could reduce rainfall in the equatorial region and also affect India's biodiversity hotspots, according to a new study out on Wednesday.

The study showed that this would potentially lead to the replacement of India’s biodiversity hotspots, including the evergreen forests of the Western Ghats, Northeast India and the Andamans, with deciduous forests.

For the study, researchers from Birbal Sahni Institute of Palaeosciences (BSIP), an autonomous institute of the Department of Science and Technology, used fossil pollen and carbon isotope data from the Eocene Thermal Maximum 2 (ETM-2), also known as H-1 or ELMO.

This is a period of global warming that occurred approximately 54 million years ago.

In addition to global warming, during this period the Indian plate also stalled near the equator during its journey from the Southern to the Northern Hemisphere.

“This makes the Indian plate an ideal natural laboratory, providing a unique opportunity to understand the vegetation-climate relationship near the equator during ETM-2,” the researchers said.

Based on the availability of fossils from ETM2, the team selected the Panandhro lignite mine in Kutch, Gujarat and collected fossil pollen from there.

Their findings, published in the journal Geoscience Frontiers, found that when atmospheric carbon dioxide (CO2) concentrations near the paleo-equator were greater than 1000 parts per million volume (ppmv), rainfall decreased significantly. This led to the expansion of deciduous forests.

The study also raises important questions about the survival of equatorial/tropical rainforests and biodiversity hotspots under rising carbon emissions. It may also help in understanding the relationship between CO2 and the hydrological cycle and aid in the conservation of biodiversity hotspots in the future.

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