Central Asia’s wild apple trees are disappearing

According to the article Central Asia’s wild apple trees are disappearing by Eurasianet, climate change and human activity will drive apple trees away from their native Central Asia by the end of the century.

What Is Happening

  • Climate change and human activity are threatening the wild apple with local and regional extinction in the mountains of eastern Central Asia, its native habitat.
  • Zhongping Tian of the East China Normal University, in Shanghai, and colleagues found that since the end of the Soviet Union, over 70% of the apple species’ habitat has been lost as of June 2022.
  • Tian also noted that Central Asia is warming faster than the global average, and temperature change is a major factor that shapes wild apple tree distributions.

Government Action

  • Local governments have introduced a few protective measures, mostly by protecting certain areas of land from deforestation, farming, and development. Also, the wild apple is included in the red lists of endangered trees published by Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan.
  • In some endangered areas, a few Central Asian governments have protected 13% of habitats that would support wild fruit species. Unfortunately, these areas cannot be shielded from climate change and only 25% of the currently protected territory will support wild apples by 2090. The wild apple is expected to lose all suitable habitats in the Zhambyl region of Kazakhstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan. In Kyrgyzstan the range within current protected areas will fall by 78%.
  • According to Tian and his team, current conservation efforts are not enough to reverse the trend towards apple tree extinction in Central Asia.

The Future

The loss of the apple tree species in Central Asia can be seen as a tragedy, but there can also be economic repercussions. Fruit exports are an important source of foreign exchange in Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan, and the loss of wild apples may take a toll on the countries’ economies. Climate change may also force farmers to migrate north in hopes of more work.

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