This Global ecoregion
is made up of 3 terrestrial ecoregions: Hengduan Mountains subalpine conifer forests
; Qionglai-Minshan conifer forests
; and Nujiang Langcang Gorge alpine conifer and mixed forests
The Qionglai-Minshan Mountains are among the steepest and tallest mountains on Earth, with some peaks reaching nearly 7,500 meters (25,000 ft). Gonga Shan, the highest summit at 7,556 meters (2,479 ft) is so steep that the glaciers on its east face tumble down below the tree line before they finally melt. It includes peaks from 1,300 meters to 3,500 - 4,000 meters in elevation in the north-south trending mountain system, which defines the eastern edge of the Tibetan Plateau.
This altitudinal zonation gives the region a high degree of habitat complexity and a resulting high biological diversity. A flagship species of this ecoregion is the rare and endangered giant panda
), for which a system of nature reserves has been established. Much of this ecoregion escaped glaciation during ice ages, making it a refuge for many endemic and relict species.
The Hengduan - which means ‘to transect’, or cut downward - is a complex system of high ridges and deep valleys. Because of its remoteness, the Nujiang forests remain one of the most intact and biologically diverse parts of China. The Gaoligong National Nature Reserve is of great ecological importance. It includes forests that vary from subtropical evergreen broadleaf forests at low elevations to subalpine conifer forests at higher elevations.