Western Himalayan Temperate Forests

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Kaghan Valley, Pakistan.
© WWF-Canon / Hartmut JUNGIUS

About the Area

This Global ecoregion is made up of 2 terrestrial ecoregions: Western Himalayan broadleaf forests; and Western Himalayan subalpine conifer forests.

Some of the world's richest temperate montane plant communities, including the best example of south temperate montane forests in southern Asia occur in this region. Due to the continental climate and a Mediterranean influence to temper the effects of the south asian monsoon, this region is floristically quite distinct from the eastern Himalayas.

The temperate forests of this ecoregion grow at elevations of 600 to 3,800 metres (1,980 to 12,540 ft) along the western slopes of the Himalayas. The middle elevation forests of the Western Himalayas, including places such as the Palas Valley of Pakistan - the most floristically rich area in Pakistan, contain numerous plant species found nowhere else on Earth.

Size:
95,500 sq. km (37,000 sq. miles)

Habitat type:
Temperate Broadleaf and Mixed Forests

Geographic Location:
India, Nepal, Pakistan

Conservation Status:
Critical/Endangered

Local Species
Characteristic plant species in the region include conifers Blue pine (Pinus wallichiana), Spruce (Picea smithiana), Yew (Taxus wallichiana), and Fir (Abies pindrow); subalpine broadleaved species such as Birch (Betula utilis) and Rhododendron (Rhododendron campanulatum); and endangered endemic plant species such as shrubs Lactuca undulata and Berberis lambertii.

Pakistan's Palas Valley is home to some of the world's last populations of western tragopans, a species of arboreal pheasant. Mammals include the endangered snow leopard (Uncia uncia) - severely threatened in this region by hunting, Bengal tigers, Himalayan tahrs, and the blue sheep (Pseudois nayaur) that are hunted at night by the snow leopards. Among the many birds are snow geese, Tibetan sand grouse, Himalayan griffons, and rubythroats.

More than 300 species of birds live in the Broadleaf forests, ranging from warblers to pheasants. 7 species of birds are found here and almost nowhere else in the world: the white-cheeked tit, white-throated tit, spectacled finch, Kashmir flycatcher, Tyler’s leaf-warbler, orange bullfinch, and Kashmir nuthatch. More than 70 other species of mammals live here too.

Featured Species

 / ©: WWF-Canon / Martin HARVEY
Himalayan tahr (Hemitragus jemlahicus).
© WWF-Canon / Martin HARVEY
Himalayan tahr (Hemitragus jemlahicus)

The Tahr’s body length is about 90-140 cm and it weighs 36-90 kg. The dense, woolly winter coat is reddish to dark brown and has a thick undercoat. With their winter coat, males also grow a long, shaggy mane around the neck and shoulders which extends down the front legs. After the spring moult, the coat is much shorter and lighter in color. The legs are relatively short, and the head is proportionally small. The eyes are large, and the ears are small and pointed. The horns are triangular in cross-section and are found in both sexes. They curve upward, backwards, and then inwards, to a maximum length of 45 cm, and are usually larger in males.

Most active during the early morning and late afternoon, Himalayan tahrs spend the middle of the day resting among rocks and vegetation. Very shy and wary, they are difficult to approach, especially from downhill. When startled, they flee with confidence, speeding sure-footedly across the uneven terrain of their habitat. The Himalayan tahr may migrate down the mountain during the winter, resting in denser cover at lower altitudes. When competing for breeding privileges, males lock horns and attempt to throw each other off balance.

They are listed as vulnerable by IUCN.

Read more:
Threats
The remaining forests of this ecoregion are threatened by increasing logging, conversion of land to agriculture, and fuel collection. Hunting is a popular activity in Pakistan and many people own guns. In addition, people from around the world flock here as pilgrims or tourists. Their presence has spurred ill-planned roads, trails, and hotels. Large-scale collection of the morel mushroom (Morchella esculenta) from the Alpine forests by the local people for export coincides with the breeding season of several pheasants and high altitude mammals.
WWF’s work
As part of the Terai Arc Landscape (TAL) Programme, WWF and its partners are working to restore and reconnect 11 national parks in Nepal and India to create a single continuous landscape.

Improving the habitat for the marsh mugger crocodile is just one small part of species conservation and restoring the landscape.

In addition, WWF has helped a local youth group form a community-based anti-poaching operation, the first of its kind in the region, to protect the wetlands and its resources.

The Convention on Wetlands is an intergovernmental treaty providing the framework for national action and international cooperation for the conservation of wetlands and their resources. There are presently 152 parties to the convention, with 1,611 wetland sites, totaling 145.2 million hectares, designated for inclusion in the Ramsar List of Wetlands of International Importance.

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