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Warmer wetter climate predicted to bring societal and ecological impact to the Tibetan Plateau

Increased rainfall and glacier meltwater set to dramatically reverse shrinking trend and expand land-locked lakes on Tibetan Plateau by 50%

2024-05-27
(Press-News.org) While recent reports have stated that more than half the world’s largest lakes, including lakes in the Tibetan plateau, are drying up, a paper in Nature Geoscience today (27/5/24 DOI  10.1038/s41561-024-01446-w ) suggests that, by the end of this century, land-locked lakes on the Tibetan Plateau are set to increase exponentially, resulting in major land loss and related economic, environmental and climatic impacts.

Climate and weather predictions suggest that increased rainfall due to climate change will enlarge these lakes, and see water levels rise by up to 10 metres.

The volume of water caught in these land-locked lakes is estimated to increase fourfold by 2100 according to the research by Dr Iestyn Woolway of Bangor University (UK) and colleagues in China, Saudi Arabia, USA and France.

The increased lake surface area will also mean the loss of critical land area, for agriculture, human habitation, critical road and rail networks and economic disruption.

Dr Woolway commented,
“Climate change is making the Tibetan Plateau greener and more habitable, attracting more people to higher altitudes due to better access to water. However, rising lake levels require urgent planning and policies to mitigate impacts on the region's ecology and population.”

The resultant land loss could also lead to a change in the landscape, as lakes merge and the course of the rivers which feed and inter-connect the lakes are altered.

This could lead to increased greenhouse gas emissions and a positive feedback loop, amplifying climate change. An increase in freshwater, and in flow between lakes could also cause a change in ecology and affect wildlife. As an example, when the Zonang Lake in Hoh Xil Nature Reserve burst its banks in 2011, the Tibetan Antelope found their migration route blocked.

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[Press-News.org] Warmer wetter climate predicted to bring societal and ecological impact to the Tibetan Plateau
Increased rainfall and glacier meltwater set to dramatically reverse shrinking trend and expand land-locked lakes on Tibetan Plateau by 50%