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Honey Hunting: An Age-Old Tradition Meets Modern Threats

[caption id="attachment_3654" align="alignright" width="300"] Apis Laboriosa, the Himalayan giant honey bee, is the largest honeybee in the world. Photo: Niraj Karki.Wild honey from Apis Laboriosa, the Himalayan giant honey bee, has been gathered by Gurung people from cliffs in the Himalayan foothills of Nepal for centuries. Apis Laboriosa is the largest honeybee in the world, and is referred to as ‘Bheer-Mauri’ in Nepali, which directly translates into ‘cliff bee.’ It is crucial for pollinating wild flora and crops in the mountains. The Gurung people across many parts of Nepal, especially the Kaski and Lamjung Districts, value their tradition of honey hunting as part of their lifestyle, and collect honey twice a year during the spring and autumn. The honey they gather is prized due to both its medicinal properties and monetary worth.Every year, during the start of the spring or autumn season, the local Shaman (priest or the elder of the tribe) of...
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Plant species are on the move ...

... and it is us humans who are moving them.Human actions are having a significant impact on the distribution of plant species, and even more so than the warming climate. This is the surprising outcome of the PhD thesis of University of Antwerp-based Jonas Lembrechts, who is studying plant species distributions in cold-climate mountain regions.Yes, the warming climate is shifting the distribution of plant species poleward and to higher elevations, but our actions are causing even more rapid and structural changes to where species can be found. In his PhD, Lembrechts showed how humans are helping non-native species to invade mountain regions: “Humans are taking non-native plant species with them all over the world, introducing them to other mountain regions. Once there, these species can profit from human structures like mountain roads to move rapidly to higher elevations,” Lembrechts explains.[caption id="attachment_3604" align="alignright" width="300"] Mountain roads – here in the Chilean Andes...
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Lagging Behind

Species have been reported to be moving poleward and upward in mountains as a result of climate change. Evidence of this movement is piling up rapidly, and with every passing year the increasing speed at which it is occurring is also becoming apparent. However, new studies reveal that this species movement is often not as straightforward as it first appears.[caption id="attachment_3155" align="alignright" width="300"] Plants and other sessile organism often show a delayed response to climate change. (Northern Scandes, Norway)One might think that as the climate warms, so species will follow. The problem is, a species’ reaction to a change in their environment is not always that fast. They often need some time to adjust and to move towards where the climate is now suitable. This delayed reaction is especially true for sessile species, like plants, that depend almost entirely on seed transportation to travel around.Toward greater understandingThese so-called lags in species...
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A story of hotspots and stepping stones

[caption id="attachment_2683" align="alignright" width="300"] A typical subarctic mountain trail, winding through a blueberry field (Vaccinium myrtillus).Predicting the faith of exotic plant species in cold-climate mountainsAbisko, a small village north of the polar circle in Swedish Lapland. The origin of several mountain trails, winding through the pristine subarctic vegetation towards the breathtaking views at the top. A vegetation mostly consisting of slow-growing mosses and dwarf shrubs that seem to have been there forever. Yet during the last few years or decades, changes in this vegetation increasingly start to become apparent: several new species that are traditionally not a part of the subarctic vegetation are popping up along the trails. Clovers, common yarrow, sweetgrass or annual meadow grass, species that are typical residents of the milder parts of Europe, are now getting a foothold even here, in the high north. They border the trails, grow in the roadsides, line the buildings at the...
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Species on the move

[caption id="attachment_2601" align="alignright" width="300"] Recent climate change is affecting a fragile balance, and the ball just started rollingThe world’s climate is changing rapidly. There, I said it! A statement backed by scientific evidence that keeps piling up, day by day. Yet, what is perhaps even more important: the impact of this changing climate on our world are now undeniably starting to surface as well. From the damaging effect of extreme weather events, over the slow-yet-steady rise of sea levels to the changes in the distribution of countless species; climate change is happening under our very eyes.Concerning the latter, an impressive recent review in Science (Pecl et al., 2017) has bundled all these observed biodiversity redistributions, highlighting why we should care about them. And that last fact might be even more interesting, because at first sight, it might be not more than a scientific triviality if organisms are heading north or up in the mountains.[caption id="attachment_2603"...
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