How Climate Change Affects Mountains

climate change

The fate of the world’s mountains is not set in stone. As strong as they may look, climate change is altering them in a way that will affect us as well. As the mountains change over time due to climate, so does their ability to help the ecosystems that thrive beneath them, including humans. While much is being discussed and done to protect the oceans, reefs, wetlands, and forests, the condition of mountains are seemingly being taken for granted. Here, Ranger Mac will take a look at a few ways that mountain habitats help mankind and why we need to start protecting them for future generations.

Mountains Are Our Water Source

Most of the rivers around the world are products of water runoff from mountains. Because these mountains are so high, they also act as natural water towers by creating water flow due to gravity. Mountains use their mass and shape to divert water in the air, forcing it to rise, cool, and then fall as rain or snow. The water that runs off the mountains doesn’t just provide essential drinking water for us, it also sustains food production for more than half the world’s population. With climate change and the rising temperatures, glaciers and icecaps are melting at a faster rate. This is causing major flooding and increased sedimentation and pollution of many aquatic ecosystems.

Habitats are Moving Upwards

Another concern when it comes to mountain ecosystems as the world gets warmer is how it affects the habitats of nearby wildlife. As the global average temperature rises, some species of plants, animals, and birds have started migrating up the mountains in search of the cooler climate they need to survive. At some point, there will be nowhere left for these species to go. A lack of space for habitat is one of the major factors that results in endangerment and extinction of species.

Mountains Make Your Coffee and Food Supply

You read that right. Your morning coffee and some of the foods you eat are sustained by the mountains. Coffee crops thrive in mountainous environments. With the changes in climate, coffee farmers in Indonesia are already seeing a lesser crop due to deforestation, temperature increases, less rain, and dryer seasons. Some researchers are looking for ways to improve agricultural practices and protect the forests in hopes of making the coffee crop more resilient to climate change.

Your food is also in peril due to climate change and the effects it’s having on the mountain areas where many crops are grown. One example of this is the potato farmers of Peru. The potato originated in Peru, and the crop does best in areas of higher elevation. As the climate changes, it has forced these farmers to move further up the mountains to avoid the rising temperatures and pests that come with it. The higher up they have to climb, the less space they will have to plant the long rows of potato seeds for their crops. The potato itself has around 2,500 varieties, and many of the original seeds can no longer flourish in the current environment.

Mountain Hikes are Getting Risker

The adventure of scaling a mountain draws many people to high altitude hiking. But as the climate changes, the mountains and their terrains are becoming harder to traverse, adding more danger to the process. With the rising temperature causing snow and ice to melt more quickly, there are more mudslides, floods, avalanches, and falling rocks than before. One major avalanche on Mount Everest in 2014 killed a total of 16 climbers. These dangers are increasing not only for the climbers, but also for the mountain guides that are at risk daily to help these tourists and adventure seekers scale mountains.
 At the current rate of rising temperatures, Mount Everest is set to have a glacial loss of 70% by the year 2100!

With conservationists and environmentalists working hard to protect the Earth from climate change, it’s important to keep the mountain environments in mind as well. These habitats are important for our food and water supplies, as well as the other types of wildlife that inhabit them. With attention and effort, there is hope that we can help save the mountains and their ecosystems alongside the oceans, forests, and everything in between.