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ECOLOGY AND ENVIRONMENT
Articles in this section describe the ecology, biodiversity, climate, in different parts of the Himalayas
The environment of the Himalayas is a function of its climate, as much as the climate is a result of the mountains themselves.

Climate: The Himalayas, by virtue of their stupendous height, act as a climatic divide for the Asian region, and the behaviour of large systems of air and water circulation in the region is moderated by it. The meteorological conditions in the Indian subcontinent to the south of the Himalayas as well as the Central Asian highlands to its north are therefore shaped by the presence of this mountain range. Rain-laden clouds from the south are forced to shed most of their moisture on the southern slopes, with the eastern part receiving maximum rain, decreasing their shed gradually as they head west; very little however is able to cross the high peaks to the northern plateau beyond. Hence while the Rain Pole of the Earth lies in the south-eastern part of the Himalayas (Cherrapunji in Assam is the place with the highest precipitation in the world!), the highest cold deserts in the world lie just north in the Trans-Himalayas and the Tibetan plateau that receive just 3-6 inches of rain per year. The Himalayas also serve to shield the southern slopes from the cold, continental winds from the Central Asian tablelands. Microclimate of particular locales in the Himalayas is however determined by local relief features apart from location within the range. Temperatures and the length of summers and winters are dependent on the altitude. At very high altitudes (>4000m), summers are very brief and winters are long, severe and snowbound, although the lower hills have long and wet summers and mild, short winters minimum May temperatures at 19,500 ft. in the Everest region is -29 deg. C. At the higher altitudes, precipitation is primarily in the form of snow, and contributes to the world′s reservoir of snow and ice resources in the form of glaciers and permafrost. This region has a total of 35,110 sq. km. of ice cover with an ice reserve of 3,735 cu. km. it is also called the Third Pole in recognition of its significant reserves of ice. The unique glacial environment of the region and resultant atmospheric processes, have a significant influence on regional and global weather.

Ecology: The abrupt rise of the Himalayas from the sea to the highest point on earth, along with the geologic and topographical complexity of the mountain system, has given it a wide range of ecological conditions, within a rise of just a few hundred kilometres. Add to this the fact that it is the confluence of two very different continental plates, each with its own flora-fauna and the meeting bringing forth an interesting cross-culturation as well, has created one of the most biodiverse regions in the world. There are about 10,000 species of plants, nearly a 1,000 species of birds, 300 species of mammals, and several reptiles and aquatic species as well; a significant number of these species are endemic to the region. The southern slopes of the Himalayas are very green, with alluvial plains and moist deciduous forests at the base, teeming with life, including several species of large mammals. Higher up there are temperate broadleaf forests and coniferous forests, and even higher beyond the tree line are alpine meadows with the rarest of plants, several possessing medicinal properties. The soils at higher altitudes are made of rock fragments and are not very productive . Beyond 5,500 metres lies a zone of permanent ice and rocks. The northern slopes are believed to have been beautiful valleys before the birth of the Himalayas, and were gradually turned into deserts (Gobi, Taklamakan) as the Himalayas grew and grew. The relative strength of the monsoons finds a reflection in the ecological profile east to west along the mountain range, as well. The eastern foothills and low hills upto 2,000m display a rainforest ecology, the central region is a transitional semi-wet region, while the western division is an arid desert.

Resources: The Himalayan region also has ecological significance beyond its biodiversity. It is called the Water Tower of the World as it is the source of some of the mightiest rivers on earth and thus, indirectly the fountainhead of some of the greatest civilizations in the world, for these grew in the basins of the Himalayan rivers and were nurtured by them - apart from vast stores of freshwater reserves in the form of wetlands, springs, lakes, glaciers, that is the lifespring for its rich biodiversity. They are also the storehouses for many other life-giving resources for the teeming plains of South Asia- fuel wood and timber, minerals, hydroelectric power, fodder, resins, plant fibres, medicines etc.
Title: A Regional Perspective For Snow Leopard Conservation In The Indian Trans-Himalaya
Author: Bhatnagar, Y.V. Mathur, V.B. and McCarthy, T.
Source: National Workshop on Regional Planning for Wildlife Protected Areas, 6-8 August 2001
Year: 2001
Publisher: Wildlife Institute of India
Abstracts:The Trans-Himalaya – the vast bio-geographic region in the cold and arid rain-shadow of the Greater Himalaya, is home to the endangered snow leopards for which protected areas (PAs) have been set up. Harsh climate and topography provides limited agricultural land and pastures, and few alternatives to resource dependent human communities in and around the protected areas (PAs). The paper deals with the current concerns and emphasizes the need for participatory management, alternative zonation of existing PAs and the revival of the ‘Project Snow Leopard’.
 
Title: A Strategy for Conservation of the Tibetan Gazelle – Procapra picticaudata in Ladakh
Author: Bhatnagar, Y.V., Seth, C.M., Takpa, J., Haq, S., Namgail, T., Bagchi, S., and Mishra, C.
Source: Conservation and Society, Volume 5, No. 2, 2007
Year: 2007
Publisher: Ashoka Trust for Research in Ecology and the Environment (ATREE)
Abstracts:  Tibetan gazelle (Procapra picticaudata) is endemic to the Tibetan plateau. Although its conservation status is believed to be secure, the study initiated by the authors in 2000 shows a steep decline in the gazelle population in Ladakh, India. The article deals with the anthropogenic factors responsible for this and the land use and socio-economy of pastoral communities that share the gazelle’s range. It also outlines a species recovery strategy for the Tibetan gazelle. 
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Title: Changes in Agricultural Biodiversity: Implications for Sustainable Livelihood in the Himalaya
Author: Saxena, K.G., Maikhuri, R.K. and Rao, K.S.
Source: Journal of Mountain Science, Vol. 2, No 1, 2005 
Year: 2005
Publisher: Journal of Mountain Science
Abstracts:  Himalayan mountain system is distinguished globally for its rich biodiversity. With increasing emphasis on growing cash crops, the agricultural biodiversity is changing and there is added stress on forest resources. Farmers have gained economic benefits but at the cost of increased vulnerability to environmental stress. The paper summarises the traditional practices in place, changes and their implications and the strategic options for improvement through the use of traditional manure, management of on-farm trees, and participatory agro-forestry along with policies for economic benefits to local people from non-timber forest products.
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Title: Ecosystem Profile – Eastern Himalayas Region
Author: Anonymous
Source: World Wildlife Fund – US, Asia Program 
Year: 2005
Publisher: World Wildlife Fund – US, Asia Program
Abstracts:  This document represents the ecosystem profile for the Eastern Himalayas comprising Bhutan, northeastern India and southern, central and eastern Nepal. It lays down the biological significance of the region, socio-economic characteristics and current threats. The report also includes details of conservation initiatives undertaken by Critical Ecosystem Partnership Fund (CEPF), their outcomes and the strategic directions of CEPF which are based on the scientific principles of conservation biology.
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Title: Environment and rural development in Darjeeling Himalaya: Issues and concerns
Author: Khawas, V.
Source: Mountain Forum
Year: 2002
Publisher: Mountain Forum
Abstracts:  The paper seeks to highlight the major environmental and developmental issues in the Darjeeling Himalayan region. It emphasizes the need for a comprehensive regional strategy for sustainable regional development, capable of addressing social, economic, political, demographic and environmental issues in this fragile, strategic region. The paper provides a detailed account of the socio-economic background of the region and identifies critical factors to be considered for planning.
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