The name itself is Sanskrit for ‘abode of snow’. Here are the third largest deposits of snow and ice in the world after the Antartic and the Arctic.
Climates range from tropical at the base of the mountains to perennial snow and ice at the highest elevations. These complex and diverse eco-regions are interconnected: an ecological threat to one is ultimately a threat to many. Here are just a few examples of Himalayan ecology:
Montane Grasslands and Shrublands:
Western alpine shrubs and meadows can be found between 9,850 and 16,400 ft. These areas tend to have cold winters and mild summers that allow for plant growth. Rhododendron plants cover the lower shrublands, while the alpine meadows, directly above, host a range of flora in the warmer months. Animals found in this region include the snow leopard, Himalayan tahr, musk deer, and pikas.
Temperate Coniferous Forest:
In the northeast, temperate sub-alpine conifer forests are found at elevations of 8,200 to 13,800 ft. Located in the inner valley area, these forests are protected from harsh monsoon conditions by surrounding mountain ranges. The dominant tree types are pine, hemlock, spruce, and fir. Animals found in this region include red pandas, takins, and musk deer.
Temperate Broadleaf and Mixed Forests:
Found in middle elevations of 6,600 to 9,800 ft. in the eastern region are broadleaf and coniferous forests. These forests receive almost 80 inches of annual rainfall, mostly during the monsoon season. In addition to indigenous oaks and maples, plants like orchids, lichen, and ferns also grow here. A huge range of wildlife, including over 500 species of birds, are found during the cooler seasons. In the hot summers many migrate to higher elevations to escape the heat. This is also the primary home for golden langur monkeys.
Tropical and Sub-tropical Broadleaf Forests:
Located at 1,650 to 3,300 ft. along a narrow strip of the outer Himalayan range are the Himalayan sub-tropical broadleaf forests. Here there is a wide range of plant life thanks to the areas varied topography, soil types, and rainfall levels. Forest types include subtropical dry evergreen, northern dry mixed deciduous forests, moist mixed deciduous forests, subtropical broadleaf forests, northern tropical semi-evergreen forests, and northern tropical wet evergreen forests.
Wildlife includes many threatened species including tigers and Asian elephants. More than 340 different species of birds can be found in this region.