Saturday, November 13, 2010

Fast melting glaciers threaten Kyrgyz biodiversity

Pavol Stracansky in IPS/IFEJ: Kyrgyzstan's glaciers are receding at what scientists say is an alarming rate, fuelled by global warming. And while experts warn of a subsequent catastrophe for energy and water security for Kyrgyzstan and neighbour states downstream reliant on its water flows, devastation to local ecosystems and the effects on plant and wildlife could be just as severe.

"Animals and vegetation will not be unaffected and the risks for some species will be great," Ilia Domashov, deputy head of the BIOM Environmental NGO in Bishkek told IPS. More than four percent - 8,400 square kilometres - of Kyrgyzstan's territory consists of glaciers.

A natural process of water release from summer melting of the glaciers, which freeze again during the winter, feeds many of the country's rivers and lakes. Up to 90 percent of water in Kyrgyzstan rivers comes from glaciers, local experts claim. This flow of water is not just important to energy needs and farming, it also feeds interconnected ecosystems providing habitats for some of the world's most diverse flora and fauna. Kyrgyzstan's biodiversity is among the greatest in the region and stretches through a variety of climatic habitats, ranging from glaciers to subtropical and temperate ecosystems.

…In Kyrgyzstan's submission to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, published last year, it was predicted that the country's glaciated area would recede by up to 95 percent over the next century…

Glacier in Tian Shan mountain range, shot by Andrzej Barabasz (Chepry), Wikimedia Commons, under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license

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