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Climate Shifts in Kaas Plateau

  • 17 Jul 2023
  • 4 min read

For Prelims: Climate Shifts in Kaas Plateau, Holocene Epoch, Southwest Monsoon, National Centre for Earth Sciences, United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) World Heritage.

For Mains: Climate Shifts in Kaas Plateau.

Source: PIB

Why in News?

A recent study conducted by the Agharkar Research Institute (ARI) and the National Centre for Earth Sciences has shed light on significant climate shifts in the Kaas Plateau during the Early-Mid-Holocene and late Holocene Periods.

  • The researchers studied the sediments of a seasonal lake to understand and decipher the past climate of the Kaas Plateau.

What is Kaas Plateau?

  • The Kaas Plateau, located in Maharashtra's Satara district, is a UNESCO World Natural Heritage Site and a designated biodiversity hotspot.
  • Known as Kaas Pathar in Marathi, its name is derived from the Kaasa tree, botanically known as Elaeocarpus glandulosus (rudraksha family).
  • The plateau have various seasonal flowers forming a floral carpet over the entire lateritic crust during August and September.

What are the Key Findings of the Study?

  • Ancient Lake and Environmental Preservation:
    • The present "Flower Wonder" of the Kaas Plateau is located on an ancient lake that dates back to the Early-Mid-Holocene period, approximately 8000 years ago.
    • The seasonal lake has been preserved over a long time and provided valuable insights into the past climate of the region.
  • Climate Shifts during the Early-Mid-Holocene:
    • Around 8664 years ago, there was a change in the climate from freshwater to drier conditions with low rainfall.
    • Pollen and diatom data indicated a major shift in the Indian summer monsoon activity during this time.
    • Despite the drier conditions, there were intermittent humid periods suggested by a significant rise in the number of diatoms.
  • Late Holocene Climate Changes:
    • During the late Holocene, approximately 2827 years ago, there was a decrease in rainfall and a weakened Southwest Monsoon.
  • Recent Environmental Impact:
    • Over the last 1000 years, there is evidence of lake Eutrophication, indicated by the presence of high numbers of planktonic and pollution-tolerant diatom taxa.
      • Eutrophication is the process of a water body becoming overly enriched with minerals and nutrients which induces excessive growth of algae or algal bloom, thereby, leading to oxygen depletion of the water body.
    • Human activities, including agriculture and cattle/livestock farming in the catchment area, likely contributed to this environmental impact.
  • Monsoon Intensity and Duration:
    • The southwest monsoon intensified during the Early Holocene, around 8000 years ago.
    • The northeast monsoon relatively weakened around 2000 years ago.
    • It is likely that the 'Flower Wonder' of the Kaas Plateau existed for a longer duration, up to March-April, during the early–mid-Holocene (8000–5000 years), when the monsoon rainfall was more abundant, with more than 100 rainy days.
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