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The Himalayas is a region that boasts mighty peaks, pure lakes, rich forests and extensive plains, but it is a fragile landscape eroding under rapid population growth.
Habitat loss is extensive in the region, over 75% of the original Himalayan habitat has been destroyed or degraded. Fuelwood and fodder collection has damaged forests and grasslands. Extensive livestock grazing has destroyed habitat compositions, and rapid development is removing species habitat and fragmenting populations.
A significant % of the population of the Eastern Himalayas lives well below the poverty line and rely on crop agriculture, livestock rearing, and the use of non-timber forest products to survive. Cash crops are extensively cultivated and firewood, fodder, and thatch grass are extracted from the forests. All of which has impacted on the natural habitats of the region.
Fuelwood and fodder collection
Fuelwood and fodder collection are 2 major causes of habitat degradation in the Eastern Himalayas, causing changes in habitat composition and species loss. This is particularly severe in the lowlands of India and Nepal where population pressure is greatest.
The population of the region is expanding and forests and grasslands are being converted into agricultural land and settlements. As a consequence huge regions of biodiversity rich habitat, and vital wildlife corridors are being decimated. This is most intense in the densely populated regions of Nepal and the Indian States of Sikkim and Assam.
Extensive grazing by domesticated livestock is another pervasive source of habitat and biodiversity loss throughout the Eastern Himalayas. The species-rich high-altitude alpine meadows, when overgrazed by domesticated yak, become dominated by a few species of unpalatable shrubs; threatening the species that rely on the meadows and the livelihoods of the herders. The same can be seen in the mid-hill and lowland forests. Cattle are grazed throughout the forests and remove the understory of the forests; damaging the composition of the natural ecosystems and associated biodiversity.
The commercial collection of plants used in traditional medicine also poses a threat to particular species and the natural composition of certain habitats.