Poppies which could be at risk from climate change

Could Himalayan poppies become extinct?

A new study warns that several plant species could become extinct within 50 years

A study by scientists from China’s Kunming Institute of Botany, the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh and Columbus State University in the USA has warned that Himalayan poppies (Meconopsis) and other species adapted to cool alpine meadows could become extinct in the wild within 50 years.

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As global temperatures rise, the habitats where these plants can survive are becoming limited to ever-more confined areas higher in the mountains. 

Meconopsis integrifolia
Meconopsis integrifolia
Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh

Using computer modelling techniques, the research team found that if global temperatures rise by 5ºC, poppies would continue to retreat and those already inhabiting the highest slopes would struggle to find space to survive. 

Dr Antje Ahrends, of the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh, said: “Our results suggest that Himalayan poppies have already been significantly impacted by climate change and that if these trends continue over the coming decades, conservation action may be necessary to ensure the long-term persistence of these species.”

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The study was published in the journal Ecology and Evolution, and the research was led by Kunming Institute of Botany PhD student Xie He. Read the full study here.