India’s forests are disappearing faster than previously thought

Climate change led to a dramatic decrease in forest cover in India between 2001 and 2018, according to a recent study by researchers at the University of Reading.

With tropical and subtropical forests making up more than 20% of its land cover, India is among the top 10 countries for forest areas. It is also home to eight percent of the world’s biodiversity, including 47,000 plants and 89,000 animals. Thus, understanding why Indian forests are shrinking rapidly is a pressing concern.

“The rapid changes in climate that 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,” says lead author Alice Haughan.

In the first-ever nationwide study of its kind, scientists found that rainfall and temperature contributed to forest loss over the 17-year period. This runs counter to official reports suggesting that forests are declining at a rate lower than that found by this study.

The researchers used a new metric to measure changes associated with climate change that takes into account variations on different temporal and spatial scales. These “climate velocities” helped them determine that the northeast region of India suffered the most forest loss. In addition, they found that climate change-related forest loss in most regions was attributed to either rainfall or temperature, but rarely to both.

Despite these findings, climate change is only a secondary driver of forest loss in India; humans converting landscapes for their own purposes are still the main cause.

According to Haughan, “India has experienced a dramatic loss of forests in recent decades, with changes in land use to accommodate crops, livestock and a growing population cited as causes. Although the contribution of forest change Although land use to forest loss has been widely studied, little attention has been paid to the role of climate change in the recent decline.

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