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Alpine meadow plants can predict monsoon, finds study

Alpine meadow plants can predict monsoon, finds study
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Tibetan alpine meadow plants are sensitive to rainfall and can forecast the arrival of Indian monsoon, according to a first-of-its-kind study which...

Beijing: Tibetan alpine meadow plants are sensitive to rainfall and can forecast the arrival of Indian monsoon, according to a first-of-its-kind study which focused on vegetation regreening on Qinghai-Tibet Plateau.

The research undertaken by Chinese and German researchers concluded that alpine meadow plants such as Kobresia are rainfall-sensitive and can be used to forecast monsoon, Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS) said.

Researchers from CAS carried out observations for more than two decades at five scientific stations on the Qinghai-Tibet Plateau, focusing on vegetation regreening that happens when plants unfold their leaves.

“I read an article about glacier change focused on the same location where my observation team was, and found that the timing of the Indian monsoon from 2001 to 2012 nearly coincided with the vegetation regreening process,” said Luo Tianxiang, researcher from the Institute of Tibetan Plateau Research of the CAS.

Luo later contacted the author of the article, a German scientist Thomas Molg, and they jointly published the study on vegetation regreening, which showed that certain plants possess weather-forecasting abilities.

The study showed that such plants unfold their leaves regardless of changes in temperature, as they are more sensitive to rainfall, dispelling the previously believed theory that temperature was the main cause of vegetation regreening at high altitudes.

“These plants fold their leaves to protect themselves from dry conditions and cold, and unfold to get the rain they need to grow. It is as if they have a biological clock for changes in rainfall,” Luo was quoted as saying by the state-run Xinhua news agency.

The article about the discovery,” Leaf unfolding of Tibetan alpine meadows captures the arrival of monsoon rainfall,” was published in British journal Scientific Reports.

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