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Researchers have explained a new approach they developed to estimate climate velocities in mountainous regions. File
| Photo Credit: AP

Species living in 17 mountains around the world may be facing the risk of extinction due to the rapid rate at which the planet is warming, new research published in the journal Nature has found.

Researchers said that the mountains at significant risk due to global warming included those in the Iran-Pakistan region, Northeast Asia, Brazilian highlands, Western America and Mexico, and the Mediterranean basin.

The international team of researchers, led by Academia Sinica in Taiwan, called for setting up more meteorological monitoring stations in mountainous areas globally, essential for developing a deeper understanding of the extent of such risks.

In their study, the researchers found these mountain regions to have the highest climate velocity, or the rate at which “species must move to stay within their survivable habitats”.

They explained a new approach they developed to estimate climate velocities in mountainous regions that considers two important influencing factors — surface warming and humidity — whilst incorporating the theories of atmospheric science.

Setting up meteorological observation stations in mountainous areas is challenging, leading to a global shortfall in long-term climate data for these regions, the team said.

This knowledge gap, compounded by the complex topography, has limited the understanding of warming trends, they said.

The team’s newly developed approach compensates for the lack of station data and assess shifts in temperature isotherms — locations having the same temperature — in mountain regions under climate change, they said.

In humid climates, climate velocity can be high, even as warming is less pronounced, according to lead author Wei-Ping Chan from the Biodiversity Research Center, Academia Sinica, and a postdoctoral researcher at Harvard University, U.S.

“The mountainous regions of Taiwan, like Japan, are more affected by humidity-induced high velocities than continental regions. Our study suggests that accounting for humidity is critical to fully understanding the variability of temperature isothermal shifts in mountainous areas worldwide,” said Chan.

Lead researcher Sheng-Feng Shen, also from the Biodiversity Research Center of Academia Sinica, said, “The lack of meteorological observation data from mountains is both the most valuable and the biggest challenge of our study.” In the absence of such data, he said they have to rely on models for making estimates, which could vary significantly depending on the model and method used.

Further, global data isn’t suitable for making local predictions due to differences in scale, Shen added.

“The unique characteristics of various mountain regions and the absence of local data mean that just because an area isn’t highlighted, doesn’t mean it’s unaffected,” he said.

Therefore, the researchers emphasised the need to set up more weather stations in mountains to better understand the real situation and tackle the effects of climate change on species.

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