Distribution and diversity of Himalayan plant species

Globally, climate change is forcing species to shift poleward and upward. Such shifts in species ranges will particularly be problematic in the montane landscapes in the (sub)tropics.

In these biodiversity hotspots, presence of steep mountain ranges and shallow latitudinal variation in climatic conditions are likely to leave species with only one option; i.e. to move upward. Consequently, the species living near the mountain tops are likely to face increasing risk of local extinction as disproportionately smaller land areas are available at higher altitudes, and those living in lowlands are likely to face "lowland biotic attrition" as they are likely to be already living at temperatures near their thermal maximums and as there will not be species from lower latitudes to compensate the species range shifts like in the temperate regions.

Hereof, this PhD research will use one of the steepest and longest altitudinal gradients in the world i.e. the Himalayan altitudinal gradient in Nepal to develop better understanding of climatic effects on plant species performance, distribution and diversity. This will be vital not only for the local indigenous communities of the Himalayas and other montane regions around the globe because they rely heavily on forest and plant resources for their everyday livelihoods, but also for the entire global society because of the iconic value of the Himalayas and its biodiversity for the world.

Specific objectives are:

  • analyse patterns of plants species distribution along one of the longest and steepest altitudinal gradients in the world
  • analyse underlying mechanisms of plant species adaptation to the altitudinal gradient
  • evaluate roles of plant traits in defining patterns of plant species distribution along the altitudinal gradient
  • model consequences of climate change for plant species performance and distribution along the altitudinal gradient

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