Wednesday, October 27, 2021

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First report of fossils from Leh

PUNJAB NEWS EXPRESS | September 27, 2021 12:51 PM

CHANDIGARH: Lakes of present and past in Ladakh have fascinated the humansince time immemorial and these lake played important role for thetraders on the old silk route. If we say Leh and surrounding areas was a city of Lakesthousand years ago which were more beautiful and extravagant thenthe present lakes of Pangong and Tsomo-riri , there will be noexaggeration .

This is what is claimed by Dr Ritesh Arya of IndianGeoparks and his team comprising of Mohamad Iliyas and Kunzang Dolma of Ladakh Science Foundation who has been researching on these lake sediments. The basis of their claim is the presence of freshwater fossils of molluscs and plants found in the paleolake deposits which were earlier considered devoid of any life. This is the 1st report of fossils from the paleolake deposits. These fossils were found when they were doing detailed investigation for the reconstruction of the events for the formation and development of the paleolake at Shey.The journey started when group of about 30 students from Ladakh Science Foundation approached Dr Ritesh Arya to explain the presence of Lake and appearance of mud cracks on the surface of the raised structure in Shey.

Dr Arya said that so many stupas had been intriguing him for long. After some observations he thought that there was relationship between Stupas and Lake. He discussed the matter with Tashi of Ladakh Science Foundation and both agreed to work on the project to find the truth.

Preliminary investigations showed that there was a relationship between the Stupas and the floods. everyone got interested and after detailed study a particular pattern was observed in the manner the stupas were placed. They were a perfect mechanism of defence from floods to Shey village Strategically important because this was the 1st palace in Leh built in 10th century.

Then curiosity grew in the lake boundary its formation and development. After detailed investigations for the first time shows discovery of existence of lifein the form of fossils of plant (with hollow stems very well preservedin the multiple beds)and fresh water molluscs in the lacustrinedeposits (at an altitude of 3000mtrs above mean sea level) in thecold mountain deserts of Ladakh. These findings were presented in the International Webinar on Molluscs and Ancient Human Societies and meeting of AMWG. 28-30th September, 2021

The networks of the roots of plants with nodules formed at theirtipsare also very well preserved showing adaptive mechanism ofplants to help them float in the lakes , these hydrophylls with theiradaptive mechanism if analysed can help in understanding themorphological changes these plants have under gone to survive inthe extreme conditions . Identificationof these fossils will help inpaleo-environmental reconstruction and understanding the paleo-climatic changes. Samples have been sent for investigation to Director Birbal Sahni Institute of paleosciencesLucnow

Precise dating of the organic matter preserved will help in calculatingthe actual age of the lake sediments and the changes it has undergone in geological time. These findings will help in understanding cycli cityof global warming and cooling which will play important rolein establishing the climate change event since last ice age around 11717 years from present day.

Various geological events leading to the formation of boundary of lake during cooling times, formation of lake after advent of warming conditions when the glaciers started receding due to warming leading to development of Lake with recharging from glacial melts. This was followed by flooding which brought material from Matho across Indus river momentarily blocking river Indus and later breaching the wall of the lake in the past which led to sudden influx of sediments and finally raising its levels. Evidences of flooding from Stagmo are also recorded in the section. These caused lot of damage to the Shey village. In response to this many Stupas/Manay walls were build in Shey to protect the village and lake downstream. On careful observation a particular pattern of orientation of Stupas was found which was effective mechanism for defence against flash floods from Stagmo glacial melt.

But unprecedented landslides and mud creep caused due to cloud burst brought lot of debris from Northern and Northwestern part of Ladakh batholith all these activities in the past further reduced the Lake into the pond.Manay walls were still constructed around the pond.But this time these walls were made of clay from the pond and not of the stones. These Stupas were more ornamental and ritual in nature and today are in a much degraded conditions then stupas build in earlier times. Evidence of convolutions formed due to frost action are also very well preserved. In top section evidences of seismic events are visible showing paleo-seismic activity in the past.

But still no evidences of what ultimately caused the death of lake was still unknown? Then the answer came when the surface of the pond was examined. The answer was simple drying of the pond in the lake because the Stagmo glacier in the past receded and failed to feed the pond and the lake died.

Dr Arya says the present site which holds these evidence of climate change, fossils, flash floods etc needs preservation and conservation and should be declared as Geoheritage site of great importance as these sections hold the key to understand the changes in climate and response of humans to thisand changes site has undergone in the past. This also shows how the lamas kings engineers planned to tackle climate changes using natural resources.

The study will help in conservation and boost geotourism in this part of the Himalayas, says he.

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