CHITRAL: Ecologists and agriculturists have said that growth and survival of a large number of fruit trees, vegetables and cereal crops have become possible in Chitral as seen during the last three to four decades due to the climate change phenomenon triggered by global warming.

They said that the phenomenon could be exploited for economic benefits as the number of the varieties of fruit trees, cereal crops and vegetables increased because due to persistence of higher degree of temperature, the yield per acre also reportedly increased.

Ejaz Ahmed, an ecologist associated with a government organisation, told Dawn that during the last three decades, a explicit rise in the average temperature of the area had been recorded that in turn affected the pattern of its flora and fauna tangibly.

He said that as ecologists working in the area, he discerned shifting of certain low-altitude trees to higher altitude which one could not think of in the past. He said that during a course of survey, he found that two dozens of endemic species of plants moved to higher altitude.

Mr Ahmed said that the new plant species could be made beneficial to locals as wild fruits, fuel wood and fodder for the animals. In the past, the high altitude pastures only supported juniper and Himalayan birch that took many decades for their growth, he added.

“Due to the shifting of the tree line to the higher altitude, the species of herbivore has also shifted to the higher altitude,” he said.

Shahzad Ayub, a senior agriculturist, said that during the past decades, a large number of fruits, cereal crops and vegetables started to grow there successfully.

He said that Pecan nuts, malta, olive and morinaga and many non-fruit plants including rubinia and ailanthus were the new entrants in the tree species while hybrid varieties of maize, a rich varies of rice know as Fakhr-i-Malakand were included in the high yielding cereal crops that required long duration for growth and ripening.

Mr Ayub said that more than two dozens of endemic species of flowers were found in the higher altitude. Those were found only in the lower attitude in the recent past, he added.

He said that broccoli was one of the new vegetables, which was grown on commercial scale and its bumper yield was transported to the markets of down country. It was a fact that all that became possible due to climate change portent, he added.

Mr Ayub said that the chilling hours for different plants decreased due to the rise in average temperature thereby enhancing the survival rate of plants as long chilling hours in the past was the main impediment for the survival of many plants that were susceptible to low temperature.

He said that the complications as a result of the climate change could be turned into ‘opportunity’ in the realms of plants and vegetables whose number increased exponentially over decades.

Published in Dawn, June 17th, 2024

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