Ecological Transformation of the Himalayan Landscape

Ecological Transformation of the Himalayan Landscape

13 Pages · 2014 · 2.3 MB · English

MAHARAJ K. PANDIT, KUMAR MANISH, AND LIAN PIN KOH. That the .. 150. 25. Bryophytes. 2700. 783. 29.00. 1737. 556. 32.01. Lichens. 1950. –. –. 1159. –. –. Fungi Himalayan rivers have so far not indicated that D. geminata.

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Overview Articles 980 BioScience •November 2014 / Vol 64 No 11 http://bioscienceoxfordjournalsorg Dancing on the Roof of the World: Ecological Transformation of the Himalayan Landscape MAHARAJ K PANDIT, KUMAR MANISH, AND LIAN PIN KOH That the Himalaya contain the basins of major rivers, regulate regional climate, and harbor rich biodiversity and varied ecosystems is well known The perennial waters and biodiversity are closely linked to the livelihoods of over a billion people The Himalaya are stressed because of a burgeoning human population and the escalating pressures of deforestation; urbanization; hunting; overexploitation of forests; and, more recently, intensive dam building The cumulative effects of these forces have led to biotic extinctions and an increased frequency of hazards threatening human lives, livelihoods, and property However, there is largely no comprehensive account of these challenges facing the Himalaya We review and discuss the importance of the Himalaya and the need for their conservation by exploring four broad themes: (1) geobiological history, (2) presentday biodiversity, (3) why the Himalaya are worth protecting, and (4) drivers of the Himalayan change We suggest scientific policy interventions, a strengthening of institutions, and proactive institutional networking to reverse the trend Keywords: biodiversity loss, climate change, dams, Himalaya, institutional networking K umarsambhava , the epic poem of fifth century  Sanskrit poet, Kalidasa, is perhaps the oldest and the most fitting written tribute to the Himalaya The poet describes the Himalaya as the “measuring rod of the Earth” and as “the roof and refuge” In purely geological terms, the Himalaya represent the youngest and the highest mountain chain of the world (estimated at 45–55  million years old) and is located on the Asian subcontinent The formation of the Himalaya was a major geophysical event that led to the disappearance of the Tethys Sea, which separated the Eurasian Plate in the north and the Indian Plate in the south The birth of the Himalaya had far reaching effects on the climate of Central and East Asia (Zhisheng et  al 2001) As this new geophysical system took shape, it became a source of a variety of natural resources that have, for millennia, molded and sustained human civilizations across South and Southeast Asia Located between 26 degrees (°) north (N) and 41°N latitude (about 1700  kilometers [km] north to south) and between 70° east (E) and 105°E longitude (about 3200 km across), the Himalaya have an east–west orientation and are spread across different nations The geographical extent of the Himalaya reported in the literature varies (see Royden et  al 2008, Bolch et al 2012) Some authors have included the hills of the north eastern hill states of India in their definition of the Himalaya (see Johansson et al 2007) because of the geographic continuity of the two regions, but their geological and evolutionary histo ries are likely to be different In this study, the Himalaya refers to the mountainous region of the Indian subcontinent, encom passing 10 major river basins and spread across seven nations (figure  1) The nations that share the Himalayan landscape, from west to east, are Afghanistan (1139%), Pakistan (1179%), India (1409%), Nepal (429%), Bhutan (112%), the Tibetan Autonomous Region (TAR) and China (4806%), and northern Myanmar (926%) On the Indian subcontinent, the Himalaya are broadly classified into the Eastern Himalaya (EH) and the Western Himalaya (WH) The EH stretch from eastern Nepal, crossing the northeastern Indian states of West Bengal, Sikkim, Arunachal Pradesh, and Bhutan into northern Myanmar, whereas the WH extends from west of the Kali Gandaki valley in Nepal through the Indian states of Uttarakhand, Himachal Pradesh, Jammu and Kashmir and to the Hindu Kush areas of northern Pakistan and Afghanistan The major parts of the transHimalayan belt (the

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