About the AreaThe Western Himalayas Ecoregion is a Global 200 ecoregion that has not been included in the list of ‘priority places’ according to new conservation plan of WWF. This ecoregion is also classified as one of the Endemic Birds Areas of the world (EBA), identified by BirdLife International. due to the presence of two endemic genera and numerous restricted range birds.
The Western Himalayas is also the catchment area of 70 - 80% water from the melting of snow and glaciers to the Indus Delta. Its significance in watershed management is critical, deforestation in the area will have far reaching consequences that will have impact in the Indus and Ganges deltas. Conservation of the Western Himalayas thus has important linkages with climate change.
There are important protected areas that fall within this ecoregion such as Ayubia National (KP), Machaira National Park (AJK) and ChitralGol National Park.
- Size: Area of WHE within Pakistan is 25,775 km. sq (excluding occupied Kashmir), including occupied Kashmir the area is 50,916 km. sq
- Habitat type Broadleaved and Coniferous Forest
- Geographic Location: Pakistan, Afghanistan, Nepal and India
Local SpeciesThe bird fauna of this ecoregion is rich with 315 species of birds. Important birds species of the area include western Tragopan, Satyr Tragopan, Koklass Pheasant, HimalayanMonal.The mammalian species include 76 species and two endemic species of bats (Myotislongipes and Murinagrisea), M. longipes is found in Pakistan. Four of the restricted range birds are classified as threatened because of habitat loss: Tragopanmelanocephalus and Catreuswallichi. The largest known population ofTragopanmelanocephalus is also found in the Palas valley in Pakistan. The area holds sub-populations of five 'special concern species' that are Asian Big cats; Snow Leopard, Common Leopard, Asian Bears: Brown Bear and Black Bear, Grey Wolf and Musk Deer.
Please see below an account of the different forest and associated wildlife:
Western Himalayan Broadleaf Forests:
The two distinct forest types are evergreen broad-leaved forest and decidousbroad leaved forests. Priority species such as Black bear and leopard are associated with this ecoregion.
Western Himalayan Sub-alpine Conifer Forests:
This ecoregion plays an important ecological role as it stands against treeless meadows on the north. This forest is thus important in the migration of birds species up and down and degradation of this forest would disrupt these movements. Endemic species of the ecoregion include Murree Vole, Hyperacriuswynnei. The Western Himalayas have more extensive conifer forests of blue pine (Pinuswallichiana), chilgoza pine (Pinusgerardiana),fir (Abiesspectsbilis), silver (Abiespindrowand spruce (Piceasmithiana) than the moister eastern part of the mountain range. These habitat of these trees are degrading and their sustainable utilization can be promoted and opportunities existing to integrate it in the conservation of the area and safeguarding the livelihoods of dependent communities.
Himalayan Subtropical Pine Forests:
This ecoregion is dominated by Chir Pine and frequent fires in the area have been a serious threat to the understorey, the high profile nationally important mammalian species of this forest are Barking Deer and Goral.
ThreatsNearly two third of the ecoregion has been cleared or degraded, however, several large patches of forests remain in the extreme western part of the ecoregion. The degraded forest needs to be rehabilitated and remaining need to be protected to ensure the survival of remain sub-populations of priority species such as Black Bear.
The ecoregion has been a hub of timber mafia, and further provides the fuelwood needs of the communities.
What WWF-Pakistan is doing?WWF – Pakistan has a number of projects within this ecoregion. There are efforts to restore springs within and around Ayubia National Park by the rehabilitation of forest in degraded watershed areas, further there are measures to protect habitat, stabilization of degraded slopes through various bioengineering measures, alternate energy options have been provided to reduce pressure on fuelwood. WWF – Pakistan is conducting various awareness programmes including in these are nature club, exposure visits, celebration of environment/biodiversity days, provision of education material and presentations.
Research has been enhanced within the area that focuses on understanding species such as snow leopard and common leopard through the study of food habits, conflicts with the communities. Considering the livestock owned by communities fall prey to leopards, there are sessions for communities to improve protection and reduce mortality due to diseases through improved husbandry and veterinary care.
There are a number initiatives to provide alternate livelihoods to communities some examples are establishment of vocational training centres for women, improving of irrigation water supply and provision of seeds and poultry.