We all know the story of Noah’s Ark, a life-saving mega-raft lovingly crafted to protect Earth’s treasures when the weather turned nasty thousands of years ago. Less well known is that the Ohrid region functions in a similar way, securing life through the tough times of climate adversity. A chief component of its power is Mount Galichica.
Snuggled between the twin lakes Ohrid and Prespa like a cozy cat with a double cushion, parts of Mount Galichica avoid the hardships suffered by other areas when temperatures plunge because the large bodies of water prevent the mercury sinking too low. The lakes bring moisture to the air and have mitigated dry spells through the region’s long past too.
Pollen records show that, even during the icy extremes of glaciation that wiped out huge swathes of habitat across Europe, trees were a constant presence in the vicinity of Lake Ohrid. They always had conditions of survival. This is thought to be why Mount Galichica has such such a mind-boggling array of plants in the present day–over 1,500 species, including several regional and local endemics.
As the Earth warmed up, cold-weather species were forced to migrate. Some were pushed north, but others took a short cut to cooler climes, heading vertically up the mountain side. Peaking at 2,254m, the higher altitudes of Galichica are just about close enough to the sky to preserve suitable conditions for these relicts of the glacial past. Only a handful of mountains in the Republic of Macedonia have this kind of power.
So what will happen now that the planet is heating up? The unfortunate likelihood is that Mount Galichica may lose some of its biodiversity as the conditions necessary to certain species gradually phase out. On the other hand, the lakes’ ability to moderate extreme temperatures will likely keep the Ohrid region cooler than other locations, and thereby provide an oasis for plants and animals that cannot bear hotter conditions elsewhere.
Galichica’s temperature gradient as the altitude gets higher will also continue to offer a rescue route for flora and fauna suffering in the sizzling sun just like Noah’s Ark did when the weather became a killer in the past. That’s as long as the Macedonian government and European Bank of Reconstruction and Development don’t fragment its habitats with their planned express road, however.