Increased average temperatures, extreme variability of precipitation and decrease in average thickness of the snowpack, increase in extreme weather events, disappearance of glaciers, upheavals of ecosystems, including the distribution of fauna and flora, increased risk of forest fires, etc. In the Pyrenees, the consequences of climate change in the medium term (around 2050 say) do not bode well for the mountainous region and its biodiversity.

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Published mid-November after two years of work, a report by the Pyrenean Observatory of Climate Change, written by a hundred experts, in fact identifies the impact of global warming on this planet.bioregion " where average temperatures have already increased – but unevenly – by 1.2 ° C compared to 1950. This average increase in mercury under the effect of climate change is not without effect on weather phenomena. Regarding precipitation, the annual volumes have decreased by about 2.5% per decade over the same period, for example the document, but especially in winter and more importantly on the southern slope.

Half of the glaciers disappeared

What affect the thickness of the snowpack, also in sharp decline. "In the central Pyrenees, at an altitude of 1,800 meters, the average thickness of the snow could decrease by half by 2050 according to the current reference, while the period of permanence of snow on the ground would reduce by more than a month", write about it scientists. Moreover, the melting of the Pyrenean glaciers, also observed in the Alps, now seems irreversible: between 1984 and 2016 more than half of the glaciers recorded in the early 80s have disappeared.

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The biodiversity of the Pyrenean ecosystem is equally affected by these changes in the climate. Beyond the intensification of extreme weather events (and their corollaries) such as heat waves, floods, forest fires or landslides linked to the thaw, the Franco-Spanish report predicts a decrease in the abundance of certain animal species. such as the rock ptarmigan, a bird of the high mountains, or the calotriton of the Pyrenees, an amphibian among the most vulnerable to climate change. For example, migratory birds have, for example, advanced their arrival date by an average of 0.16 days per year since 1959, and many animals have moved, like plants, to higher altitudes because of global warming. which could isolate certain populations. Not to mention the arrival of invasive alien species such as the processionary caterpillar with pest effects on pines.

Finally, mountain economic activities such as agriculture or tourism will not be spared. "Climate change could play a decisive role in determining the conditions necessary for the practice of certain tourist activities in the Pyrenees", these experts are worried. Except for mountain tourism in the summer, which would benefit from the lengthening of the season and summer temperatures cooler than plain.

Florian Bardou

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