A recent study by Chinese and German researchers showed for the first time that Tibetan alpine meadow plants can be used to forecast monsoon rain, according to the Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS).
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, 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 alpine meadow plants such as Kobresia unfold their leaves regardless of changes in temperature, as they are more sensitive to rainfall.
It was previously believed 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,” said Luo.
The article about the discovery,”Leaf unfolding of Tibetan alpine meadows captures the arrival of monsoon rainfall,” was published in Scientific Reports, a British journal.