Climate change induced range shift of a Himalayan lichen

The Hindu Kush Himalaya harbors some of the richest biodiversity on the planet. However, Himalayan biodiversity is now under threat due to climate change, land use, and other anthropogenic drivers. GIIS research fellow Shiva Devkota and a team from Swiss Federal Research Institute, Switzerland evaluated the effects of climate change on the distribution of an epiphytic macro lichen Lobaria pindarensis. The study published in The Lichenologist Journal used the Random Forest modelling algorithm to model the current and future distribution of lichens based on 1397 occurrence points and climatic variables. The current potential habitats of L. pindarensis will be lost by 30-70% in the future due to climate change although a range expansion of the species to the north-east and high elevations in response to climate change was found. The main reason for the simulated habitat loss is the expected increase in mean annual temperature (by 1.5-3.7 ºC) and total annual precipitation (by 56-125 mm). The results of the study provide evidence for the high sensitivity of macro lichens, in particular of mountain areas, to global warming and need for conservation of less charismatic species such as lichens.

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