How topography influences shrub cover distribution in the Nepal Himalaya?

Authors: Nichole Romanoff*, CSU Dominguez Hills , Parveen Chhetri, CSU Dominguez Hills
Topics: Geographic Information Science and Systems, Biogeography, Global Change
Keywords: Shrub, topography, climate change, expansion
Session Type: Poster
Day: 4/5/2019
Start / End Time: 3:05 PM / 4:45 PM
Room: Lincoln 2, Marriott, Exhibition Level
Presentation File: No File Uploaded

Understanding how mountain topography controls alpine shrub cover helps us to predict the patterns of future movements of shrubs in high elevation areas. Shrub growth and recruitment rates are influenced by the amount and intensity of solar radiation, snow accumulation and snow cover duration, nutrient availability, soil moisture, and soil temperature; all of which are impacted by topographic features of mountainous area. To examine alpine shrub cover relation with topography in the Nepal Himalaya, we extracted alpine shrub cover from landcover map of Nepal, generated by the International Institute of International Mountain Development (ICIMOD) based on Landsat imageries. We generated topographic variables (aspect, slope, topographic position index (TPI), and solar illumination index (SII) from the SRTM digital elevation model. We observed that areas with higher SII exposure and lower snow coverage rates, had higher rates of shrub coverage. With this you can see a correlation between slope and shrub coverage; that is the steeper a slope becomes, you can expect to see lower shrub cover to be associated with it. This is due to environmental factors and topographic variables that influence shrub formation in alpine environments. Understanding how shrub expansion and topography relate is essential for predicting future change in vulnerable alpine environments and informing management and policy decisions. With a warming environment, you can expect to see higher amounts of solar radiation and lower snowpacks in alpine environments. Our study can suggest that with climate change, we can expect to see an expansion of shrub coverage in the Himalayas.

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