Tibetan Plateau Steppe | WWF

Tibetan Plateau Steppe

About the Area

The Tibetan Plateau Steppe - one of the largest land-based wilderness areas left in the world - has the most pristine mountain grassland in Eurasia.

Known as the "Roof of the World", this ecoregion has an average elevation of almost 15,000 feet and is the meeting point for landscapes and species from Asia, Europe, and the Middle East.

From here, several major rivers (including the Yangtze, Mekong, and Indus) begin their long journeys to the sea. Due to its size and its position near the tropics, the Tibetan Plateau is one of the most ecologically diverse alpine communities on Earth. Habitats range from gravelly, wind-blown periglacial environments to moist alpine pastures and scrubs.

Local Species

The expanses are well suited to fleet footed mammals that graze large areas, which are abundant in some places and reduced in others, either as a result of hunting or competition with domestic livestock.

Species include Tibetan antelope (Pantholops hodgsoni), Tibetan wild ass (Equus hemionus), wild yak (Bos grunniens), and white-lipped deer (Cervus albirostris). Predators include the snow leopard (Panthera uncia) and Tibetan sand fox (Vulpes ferrilata). Other species, such as the wolf (Canis lupis) and the Himalayan brown bear (Ursus arctos) are considered threatened.

The Hume's ground jay (Pseudopodoces humili) is one of many characteristic bird species. Large raptors such as Gyps himalayansis and lammergeier or bearded vulture (Gypaetus barbatus) also occur in the mountainous parts of the Tibetan Plateau.

Despite low population density, hunting threatens many species of mammals (especially the argali and the Tibetan antelope, which are being slaughtered at an unsustainable rate for their high-quality wool) and large birds.

1,565,000 sq km (604,000 sq miles)

Habitat type:
Montane Grasslands and Shrublands

Geographic Location:
Central Asia, north of the Himalayas: Afghanistan, China, India, Pakistan, and Tajikistan

Conservation Status:

Quiz Time!

Liquid jelly in the Tibetan plateau?

An international team of geologists recently discovered a thick layer of soft, melted rock beneath the surface of the ecoregion. This liquid "jelly" is sandwiched between chunks of solid ground. The squishy pocket was probably left behind when continents collided millions of years ago, creating enormous heat when this plateau was formed.

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