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Rich Biodiversity

  • The Himalayas span 2,400 kilometres across Nepal, India, Bhutan, Pakistan, China, Myanmar, and Afghanistan.
  • The Himalayas are home to 10,000 vascular plants, 979 birds, and 300 mammals.
  • Iconic species such as the snow leopard, red panda, Himalayan tahr, and Himalayan monal are found in this region.
  • The Himalayas are one of 36 biodiversity hotspots, boasting about 3,160 rare, endemic, and sensitive plant varieties with medicinal properties.
  • This mountain system encompasses various climate types and ecological zones, from tropical to alpine ecosystems.

Reasons for Rich Biodiversity

  • Mountains, including the Himalayas, support biodiversity due to steep differences in elevation. These differences create large temperature bands and diverse environmental conditions.
    • For example, In the central Himalayas, the average temperature changes by about one degree Celsius every 190 meters in elevation.
    • A recent field study in Kangchenjunga, Nepal, recorded 4,170 trees per 100 meters of elevation change.
  • Middle elevations, from 1,000 to 3,000 meters above sea level, exhibited higher biodiversity compared to mountain tops and bottoms.
  • The dynamic balance between warm temperatures and abundant precipitation contributes to this high diversity.

Ecosystem Services

Provisioning: Freshwater

  • The Himalayas, along with the Tibetan Plateau, provide essential ecosystem services.
  • They are known as the “third pole” and serve as the source of major rivers in Asia.
  • This region is often referred to as “the world’s water tower.”

Regulating: Carbon Sequestration

  • Trees serve as significant carbon sinks in the Himalayas, storing about 62% of total forest carbon.
  • Cooler forest soils in northern biomes allow for additional carbon storage as undecomposed organic matter.
  • In species-rich communities, each species efficiently uses available resources, leading to higher biomass accumulation.

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  • The Himalayas are experiencing a temperature rise three times higher than the global average, increasing by an estimated 0.6°C per decade.
  • Due to warming conditions, species are migrating to cooler areas at higher elevations, leading to potential resource and space competition.
  • Recent research by ISRO using satellite imagery indicates that glaciers in the Indian Himalayan region are melting rapidly, leading to the expansion of glacial lakes.
    • These glacial lakes also pose significant risks, such as Glacial Lake Outburst Floods (GLOFs), which can cause severe damage to downstream communities.
  • Human-induced climate change and deforestation have led to the invasion of non-native species like the Crofton weed, threatening native Himalayan pine trees.
    • Exclusion of native species could impact local livelihoods and forest biomass accumulation.

Types of Glacial Lakes

  • Glacial lakes are categorised into four main types based on their formation process:
    • Moraine-dammed (water dammed by moraine).
    • Ice-dammed (water dammed by ice).
    • Erosion (water dammed in depressions formed by erosion).
    • Other glacial lakes.
  • According to ISRO, among the 676 expanding lakes, Moraine-dammed lakes are the most common (307), followed by Erosion lakes (265), other lakes (96), and Ice-dammed lakes (8).
  • An example is the Ghepang Ghat Lake in Himachal Pradesh, which has increased in size from 36.49 to 101.3 hectares between 1989 and 2022, at a rate of nearly 2 hectares per year.
  • Ecological facilitation or probiosis: It describes species interactions that benefit at least one of the participants and cause harm to neither. Facilitations can be categorised as mutualisms, in which both species benefit, or commensalisms, in which one species benefits and the other is unaffected.
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