The cover image for our new issue shows Pamir Cinquefoil (Potentilla pamirica) in the Himalayan mountains. Lead author and photographer Jiri Dolezal and author Pierre Liancourt share the story behind this stunning image and their related research article “Climate warming drives Himalayan alpine plant growth and recruitment dynamics” by Dolezal, Jandova, Macek, Mudrak, Altman, Schweingruber & Liancourt.
This paper was also selected as the Editor’s Choice article for this issue! You can read the full blog post by the handling editor here.
Potentilla pamirica, which made the cover of the new issue, is one one the longest-living forbs in the high Himalayas (up to 80 years). It is widespread in the area and occurs in a range of habitats in Ladakh (Northern India), where we conducted our study. Its populations can be found in dry steppes (~5000 m elevation), and wet alpine habitats (~5500 m elevation), all the way to the upper limit of vascular plants in the world (i.e., the subnival zone, ~6000 m elevation).
It takes two to three weeks to reach the location where the picture on the front cover was taken, at 5850 m a.s.l. The drive from Leh to the lake Tso Moriri (210 km, 4700m) isn’t too long, and then the ascent to reach the study sites can be achieved in a day’s hike. However, it is a bad idea to rush. Working safely at high elevation requires progressive acclimatization.
(L) Camp-ground in alpine grasslands at 5300 m in eastern Ladakh. Photo: Jiri Dolezal. (R) The subnival zone between 5500 and 6200 m elevation still hosts about 30 species of vascular plants. Photo: Martin Macek.
The environment in the study site is extremely inhospitable to us, to say the least. Frost is not rare, snow can fall any day, and the air is thin. But inhospitable is in the eye of the beholder, and our perception of this environment does not apply to those species that have adapted to this life on the edge. P. pamirica is one such species but it is not the only one. The region is a formidable natural laboratory to study adaptation to extreme environments. The goal of our study was to examine the complex effects of climate change (temperature and precipitation) from a plant perspective.
(L) The mountain weasel (Mustela altaica), also known as the Altai weasel or solongoi, lives in high-altitude screes, feeding primarily on pikas and voles. Here at elevation of 5300 m, it is well ‘protected’ by Northern Nettle (Urtica hyperborea), up to 50 cm tall, velvet-hairy, sparingly covered with stinging hairs. Photo: Ágnes Albert. (R) The kiang (Equus kiang) is the largest of the wild asses. It is native to the Tibetan Plateau, where it inhabits montane and alpine grasslands. Lake Tso Moriri, eastern Ladakh. Photo: Ágnes Albert.
Written by Pierre Liancourt and Jiri Dolezal
You can read the full article by Dolezal et al. here: Climate warming drives Himalayan alpine plant growth and recruitment dynamics