ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Moving Home

Global Warming and the Shifts in Species’ Range in India

Global warming and changing rainfall patterns have resulted in shifts or extensions in species' range in every terrain, region and ecosystem in India. If it is indicative of a wider unfolding process related to climate change, it would suggest that a staggering number of species in India are moving home. This would adversely affect human habitat as well.

This piece has benefi ted from a series of email interactions with E Vivekanandan about marine species, a discussion with R Sukumar about elephants and other species in the context of climate change, and most of all both material inputs and feedback on an earlier draft from Samuel Thomas in Darjeeling. I am alone responsible for any errors of fact or interpretation.

A huge, untold number of species in India are moving, mostly northward (poleward) or climbing to higher altitudes, as a consequence of global warming. This article examines such shifts and extensions in species’ range – the geographical area where a species can be found – by varied species in different terrains.

Two clarifications are in order: one, it intentionally sidesteps other impacts of global warming on species, such as altered timings of flowering or other phenological changes. Two, it focuses largely on ongoing shifts and extensions in range, not on modelled future shifts. If the narrative below – along with proportions mentioned in published studies of such range shifts elsewhere – is indicative, it would suggest that innumerable species in India, perhaps tens of thousands, have moved, some of them long distances up to hundreds of kilometres from “home” over the past few years and decades. They are continuing to move, usually in spurts.

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