India’s forest loss could become an even bigger problem than expected in the coming years, with new research revealing that climate change has caused major recent losses.
The first-ever nationwide study on the relationship between forest loss and rainfall and temperature trends in India, conducted by the University of Reading, found that they may have contributed to significant declines since the beginning of the century, exacerbating an already worrying deforestation largely due to the country’s agricultural expansion.
The new research contrasts with official reports that show relatively small decreases in forest cover in recent years. He warns that the rapid climate changes observed in some regions will require targeted conservation actions and funding to reduce risks to biodiversity in India.
Alice Haughan, PhD student at the University of Reading and lead author of the study, said: “India has experienced dramatic loss of forests over the past decades, with land use changes to accommodate crops. , livestock and a growing population cited as causes. contribution of land-use change to forest loss has been widely studied, little attention has been paid to the role of climate change in recent declines.
“The rapid changes in climate we have identified suggest that India’s loss of forests over the next few decades could be much worse than expected, as deforestation is only part of the problem. The high levels of reduction observed are also of concern for biodiversity, as India relies on connected forests for wildlife preservation.”
The new study, published in Biology of global changelooked at forest loss between 2001 and 2018 – a time when little data exists.
The authors calculated for the first time the rate of climate change in India, a relatively new technique used to quantify climate change and reveal the rate at which it affects a country.
It also analyzed the variability of climate change impacts in different regions and seasons, revealing that the impact of climate change on forest loss varied greatly between different locations and seasons.
Much greater forest loss was observed where and when the climate was changing most rapidly. Decreases in precipitation were considered to have the strongest effect on increasing forest loss, with temperature decreases in some regions also having a negative impact.
Haughan said: “Our study of tropical and subtropical India shows that rainfall rather than temperature comes into play as the largest driver of forest loss, contrary to trends found in many temperate studies.”
The authors argue that because research has so far largely focused on annual changes in India’s climate, this has masked more dramatic changes in temperature and rainfall over seasons, such as the seasons monsoon.
India is among the top 10 countries in the world in terms of forest cover, with tropical and subtropical forests covering more than a fifth of the country.
India is also one of the most biodiverse countries, containing 8% of the world’s biodiversity and four recognized biodiversity hotspots. It is estimated that 47,000 plant species and 89,000 animal species can be found in the country, with over 10% of each listed as endangered. It is believed that around 5,500 species of plants are endemic to India.