Climate Change Impacts and Vulnerability in the Eastern Himalayas

Little is known in detail about the vulnerability of mountain ecosystems to climate change. Intuitively it seems plausible that these regions, where small changes in temperature can turn ice and snow to water, and where extreme slopes lead to rapid changes in climatic zones over small distances, will show marked impacts in terms of biodiversity, water availability, agriculture, and hazards that will have an impact on general human wellbeing. But the nature of the mountains – fragile and poorly accessible landscapes with sparsely scattered settlements and poor infrastructure – means that research and assessment are least just where they are needed most. And this is particularly true for the Hindu Kush-Himalayas, the highest mountains in the world, situated in developing and least developed countries with few resources for meeting the challenges of developing the detailed scientific knowledge needed to assess the current situation or make projections of the likely impacts of climate change.