Low-lying areas in Udhagamandalam were carpeted with a thin layer of ground frost on Monday. The continuous rain this year that extended till December could have delayed the onset of ground frost, scientists from the Indian Institute of Soil and Water Conservation (ICAR-IISWC) said.
Over the last few years, the onset of ground frost has been delayed in winter. In both 2019 and 2020, ground frost in the upper plateau was recorded in late December and early January.
The ICAR-IISWC, which has been measuring the intensity of ground frost in the Nilgiris since 1968, said the dew gauge, which measured the intensity of ground frost, averaged measurement of anywhere between 4 – 8 units in December and January. However, in recent years, the intensity measured had dropped to three, the scientists said.
Ground frost is believed to play a major role in maintaining key aspects of the Nilgiris’ fragile ecosystem, including inducing the flowering and fruiting of certain native trees and plants.
There are also ecological concerns that the lack of ground frost could lead to invasive species like Lantana Camara, Eupatorium and Cestrum spreading into new habitats. Ecologists working in the Nilgiris said due to ground frost, many of these invasive species get killed off each year, preventing their spread into native ecological habitats.
Every year, the onset of ground frost also spurs a slight increase in tourist numbers to the district, with visitors keen to catch a glimpse of some of the green spaces like the Government Botanical Garden, Ooty Race Course and Wenlock Downs being carpeted with a thin layer of frost in the early hours of the morning.
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