Experts suggest more protected areas in Sikkim

Environment and climate change

Jammu, April 24 (India Science Wire): Scientists from the University of Delhi have suggested creation of three more protected areas in Sikkim, besides expansion of three existing three wildlife sanctuaries to help conserve endemic plants in the Himalayan state.

By S Suresh Ramanan

Climate change is threatening biodiversity
on earth,
specifically endemic plants, which are confined to a particular
geographical region. Any adverse impact on their habitat will surely lead to the
disappearance of the plant species. Sikkim harbours many endemic plant
species and studies have predicted that about 17-18 % of endemic plants may get
wiped out by 2050 because of rising temperature.

A group of scientists at Delhi University has now conducted a
study using MaxEnt, a species distribution model, which helps in
predicting habitat suitability of plant species. They found that plant species in
Sikkim will shift northward and towards higher elevation from their current
habitats under future green house gas emission scenarios. They have come up
with a solution to avoid the catastrophe.

They have recommended an addition of 896 sq. km of landscape to
the existing Maenam, Fambong Lho and Barsey wildlife sanctuaries and creation
of three new protected areas in Yumsedong, Lachem and Chungthang regions in the
state. All three new proposed regions are pristine ecosystems, which harbor
some of the rare species. For instance, scientists recently discovered a new
species called Rhododendronsikkimense
in Yumthang valley.

Speaking to India Science Wire, Kumar Manish, the lead
author, said “it is true Sikkim already has a high level of forest cover at more
than 80% and approximately 31 % of the land area in the state is protected,
either as national parks or as sanctuaries. There may be apprehensions that addition
of new protected areas might lead to increased human-wildlife competition for
space and resources. However, the areas, which we are proposing for expansion
or creation of new protected areas, are located at higher elevations and have
less human population as compared to the densely occupied lowland areas in the state.
I don’t think, our proposal would lead to any human-wildlife competition”.

Dr. Manish also noted,

“The study was conducted for what would be the scenario until
2070. There is a need to change the protected area network over the next 50
years. Sooner, the better”. 

The scientists have published a paper on their
work in the Biological Conservation Journal. Dr. Manish conducted it in
collaboration with Maharaj K. Pandit.

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