As temperatures rise in the highlands of New Guinea, species that are sensitive to such changes will seek to find a more suitable environment. However, many species will either be unable to move or will have nowhere to go.
For epiphytes, higher temperatures spell disaster. These plants, which play crucial roles in the light, hydrological and nutrient cycles of montane forests are especially sensitive to atmospheric climate change, especially humidity. Even slight shifts in climate can cause wilting - or death.1
In Papua Province, scientists expect that there will be more rainfall, with possibly more frequent and severe El Niño
and La Niña events. Species that can live only in alpine areas will likely suffer from this, while significant changes in the chemical composition and stratification of alpine lakes will threaten their flora and fauna.2
For the island’s tightly wound web of life, changes of this kind could signify the unravelling of the montane habitats’ exceptional diversity.