The Himalayas - Threatened Environment

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1.0 Introduction

The Himalayas are the longest and most well known mountain range in the world. It is located just north the Indian sub-continent. It is also home to some of the highest points in the world above sea level, Mt. Everest, standing at 8,848 metres above sea level and K2 standing at 8,611 metres.The main Himalayan range runs from the Indus river valley in the west, to the Brahmaputra river valley in the east, forming a range with a length of 2,400 km long, which varies in width from 400 km in the west to 150 km in the east.

1.1 Habitat

As a general analysis the Himalayas are cold. The climate on either side of the range varies as the range obstructs the movement of cold continental air from the north into India and causes southwesterly monsoon winds to peter out before crossing the range. This means there is a plethora of precipitation on the Indian side and it is dry and arid on the Tibetan side. The annual rainfall in the southern slopes is around 60 inches while in the west there is 120 inches of rainfall annually. Interestingly, throughout the Himalayas the altitude of different slopes does not always determine the climate of the area, for example, the eastern slopes are generally warmer than the western slopes as they are at lower latitude but are at similar altitude.

1.2 Formation

The Himalayan mountain range formed in a drawn out performance 30 to 50 million years ago. It occurred as the Indian plate pressed against the Eurasian continental plate pushing the Himalayas up creating the amazing sight we see today.

1.3 Flora and Fauna

There are many animals that have survived the harsh climate of the Himalayas however, there is little vegetation in the higher ranges due to lack of oxygen, exceedingly low temperatures and rocky and barren terrain.

1.3.1 Fauna

Here are two interesting species that call the Himalayas home.

The Snow Leopard
The Snow Leopard is a moderately large cat native to the Himalayan ranges of Central Asia. The strikingly beautiful snow leopard remains one of the most mysterious cats in the world. This roving, high altitude cat is rarely sighted by local people. Because it is so elusive, accurate population numbers are hard to come by, although estimates range from 100 to 200 individuals. Bengal Tiger

The Bengal Tiger calls the Eastern Himalayas home. The growing human population in its area is pushing it out of its natural habitat and poachers are becoming a serious threat to these animals. Although accurate figures are not available throughout its range, current estimates show there are only 3,000-4,500 Bengal tigers surviving in the wild.

1.3.2 Flora

There are three main climatic zones in the Himalayas; these determine the plant life in this zone. Above the third zone there is the constant presence of ice making plant life virtually impossible The first climatic zone (and hence the lowest) is home to pine and fir trees, bamboo plants and rhododendrons that are typically found in forest environments. The second climatic zone is slightly higher and is home to alpine scrub and related plants.  Plants and vegetation in this area also includes shrubs and bushes. The third slightly higher climatic zone is still home to alpine scrub, but this zone contains far more limited plant and vegetation growth such as lichen and moss that grows close to the ground.

1.4 Importance and Protection

The Himalayas are an extremely important part of our world as it is home to many endangered species of animals (see 1.3.1) and plants. It is also a very different eco-system making it an interesting subject for scientific study. It is home to world records as well, with Mt. Everest’s peak being the highest point in the world above sea level. Sadly, this magnificent landform is seriously endangered and must be protected from the threats to be listed.

2.0 Threats

The threats to the Himalayas are surprisingly populous making the Himalayas seriously threatened. The...
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