The effects of climate change will bring unique challenges to humans and wildlife in mountain landscapes. Temperatures will likely increase, with unpredictable effects on rainfall. Water availability affects local and downstream agriculture and development. Temperature increases and rainfall variability can exacerbate landslides and avalanches. WCS is undertaking the following to assess the potential impacts of climate change in Afghanistan:
Assessing long-term changes in air temperature: WCS is helping to improve the availability and quality of data related to the status of ecosystems in Afghanistan. In 2006, WCS deployed air temperature loggers in the Wakhan Valley and Big Pamir area since air temperature is an important proxy to understand the effects of climate harshness on animal survival and for evaluating long-term climate changes. This unique set of more than 40,000 data points collected by WCS constitutes the first longitudinal study of air temperature variations in this area.
Monitoring glacial retreat: WCS started a glacier retreat monitoring project in Wakhan in 2016. The average retreat measured on the ground between September 2016 and September 2017 of five of the six glaciers monitored was 11.9 m. The level of retreat measured in these five glaciers after one year of monitoring was comparable to the 10.8 m/year estimated with remote sensing for 30 glaciers of Wakhan / Pamir between 1976 – 2003 (Haritashya et al. 2009). Further monitoring of the selected glaciers is planned in the following years in order to inform policy makers and future mitigation plans on the extent of climate effect on the ice water stores of the Amu Darya River.