When it comes to plants surviving at high altitudes on Earth, scientists Jiri Dolezal of the Institute of Botany at the Czech Academy of Sciences in Pr?honice believe they’ve just found some of the highest-living vascular plants in the world atop some large mountains in India.
Image Credit: Jiri Dolezal
According to a study published in the journal Microbial Ecology, these six plant species were found growing on Mount Shukule II in the Ladakh region of India, more than 20,117 feet above the sea level. Those six plant species are:
Image Credit: Roey Angel et al., (2016) Microbial Ecology.
This not only breaks a record, but it may reveal some important changes into the Earth’s climate that are making this kind of feat possible.
According to the scientists, it’s possible for algae and mosses to survive at this kind of height or higher because of their resilience and qualities, however for vascular plants to survive at this kind of height has, until now, been unheard of because it’s common for draught and frost to deal a swift end to any plants that try to grow there.
On the other hand, perhaps the existence of frost just isn’t what it used to be. The scientists note that temperatures have been on the rise over the last few years, as much as 11º Fahrenheit in the last decade.
Interestingly, the scientists found that some of these plants were as much as 20 years old by their rings, which places their existence far prior to the 10-year temperature change just noted.
The idea that warming climate atop these mountains could be making it possible for vascular plant life to survive there serves as a viable explanation for what they were doing there given their reputation for existing at such lower altitudes.
With the trend of warming temperatures at the peak of these mountains, the scientists are convinced that this will likely become commonplace, as more plants find their way up the mountain where they can now survive due to the warmer climate.
It should be interesting to see the answers time brings.
Source: ZME Science