Eastern Himalayan Broadleaf & Conifer Forests

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Mount Everest, Nepal.
© WWF-Canon / James W. THORSELL

About the Area

The Eastern Himalayan Broadleaf and Conifer Forests blanket the lowlands to the foothills of the Himalayas in northern India, Nepal, and Bhutan.

This Global ecoregion is made up of 4 terrestrial ecoregions: Eastern Himalayan subalpine conifer forests; Eastern Himalayan broadleaf forests; Northern Triangle temperate forests; and Northeastern Himalayan subalpine conifer forests.

These middle-elevation forests range from 900 to 3,900 m (3,000 to 13,000 ft) and harbor a tremendous diversity of plant and animal species.

Temperatures vary widely throughout the year making it ideal for broadleaf evergreen trees at the lower elevations, and deciduous trees and conifers higher up. In the sub-alpine zone, above 3,000 meters, forests are slow to regenerate, a fact that makes them especially susceptible to degradation.

The Eastern Himalayan Broadleaf Forests ecoregion has several ‘floral hotspots’ - lush areas covered with endemic plant species. It contains one of the world’s richest varieties of plants, birds, and mammals. Fifteen protected areas, including several large national parks in Bhutan, extend into this ecoregion, helping to preserve its richness.

The Tibetan Plateau is so high, vast, cold, and snowy that it is also known as the ‘Roof of the World’ and ‘Land of Snows’.

Size:
170,000 sq. km (65,000 sq. miles)

Habitat type:
Temperate Broadleaf and Mixed Forests

Geographic Location:
Bhutan, China, India, Myanmar, Nepal

Conservation Status:
Vulnerable
Local Species
Eastern Himalayan forests are home to a number of extraordinary mammals such as the highly endangered golden langur (Presbytis bieti), lesser panda (Ailurus fulgens), clouded leopard (Neofelis nebulosa), Himalayan black bear (Selenarctos thibetanus), and the goat antelope called Takin (Budorcas taxicolor).

Endangered endemic plants include many orchid species (Cymbidium whiteae, Paphiopedilum fairrieanum, P. wardii), and maple species such as the Accer oblongumand and Acer hookeri.

The Broadleaf Forests are home to 500 species of birds, of which 12 live almost nowhere else in the world. These forests constitute an important endemic bird area and support a high diversity of bird species such as the Kashmir flycatcher (Ficedula subrubra), Himalayan quail (Ophrysia superciliosa), Brooks' leaf-warbler (Phylloscopus subviridis), and the Blyth's tragopan (Tragopan blythi).

More than 200 other species of birds live in the Subalpine Forests, along with 88 species of mammals. Other birds characteristic of this ecoregion include the laughing thrushes (Garrulax spp.) of which there are several dozen species resident in the Eastern Himalayas.
 / ©: WWF-Canon / Martin HARVEY
Lesser panda (Ailurus fulgens), Nepal.
© WWF-Canon / Martin HARVEY

Featured Species

The Takin (Budorcas taxicolor) is a goat-antelope found in heavily forested areas of the Eastern Himalayas. The takin is the national animal of Bhutan.

Takin stand 110-120 cm at the shoulder and weigh up to 1000 kg. Takin have large muzzles and eyes with noticeably small ears - giving a vaguely cartoonish appearance. They are covered in a thick golden wool which turns black on the under-belly. Both sexes have small horns which run parallel to the skull and then turn upwards in a short point, these are around 30 cm long.

They eat grass, buds and leaves. Takin are diurnal, active in the day, resting in the heat on particularly sunny days. Takin gather in small herds in winter and herds of up to a hundred individuals in the summer, old males are solitary.

It is listed as vulnerable by IUCN.

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Threats
Conversion of forest to agriculture land and exploitation of forests for timber, fodder and fuel wood (also used by trekkers and mountaineers) are some of the main threats to biodiversity in this region. Additional threats include charcoal production in some low elevation areas and intensive grazing at higher elevations.

Poaching is also an issue, with musk deer and Asiatic black bears particularly under threat. The musk gland of the former and the gall bladders of the latter are considered valuable medicinal ingredients in some cultures.
WWF’s work
For more than 35 years WWF has been on the ground across the Eastern Himalayas - from the Annapurna Conservation Area to Royal Manas national parks. WWF has worked with its partners to restore wildlife corridors and translocate rhinos to rebuild healthy populations. At the same time, the needs of local communities have been central to conservation efforts.

Recent biological monitoring in the Terai Arc landscape in the Eastern Himalayas has found that tigers and elephants are using the wildlife corridors that are a cornerstone of WWF's conservation strategy in the region. The Terai Arc is an ambitious 50-year effort to reconnect 11 national parks in India and Nepal into a single continuous corridor of protected areas to benefit humans and wildlife.

In the North Bank Landscape, an ambitious project by WWF to tackle the war-like levels of human-elephant conflict has reaped results in just the first year: Deaths of both people and elephants are down and crop damage by elephants has been reduced. The North Bank is a 21-million-acre landscape along the magnificent Brahmaputra River in Northeast India, near the Bhutan, China and Myanmar borders. It is home to as many as 10% of the world’s remaining Asian elephants.

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