Ecosystems Yak. Animals that habitat the area

Ecosystems at Risk
1. Identify the case study of the ecosystem at risk which you have chosen
and describe and map its location.

The ecosystem at risk that I have chosen to research is the Himalayan
Mountain range. Considering the mountain range covers a very large area,
the ecosystem type has been narrowed down to the Alpine variety. The 2 500
kilometre long Himalayas stretch across three countries; India, Nepal and
China (Tibet).The width of the mountain range varies from 100-400
kilometres, giving a total area of 594 400 square kilometres.

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2. Outline the main features of the functioning of this case study with
particular reference to what makes this ecosystem vulnerableand/or

The alpine ecosystem of the Himalayas begins at about 3 000 metres
above sea level. The sheer height of the Himalayas produce a number of
different climate variations. On the southern slopes of the Himalayas in
India, heavy rain and snowfall is received yearly, but the northern slopes
of Tibet frequently remain untouched by rainfall.The taller mountains
have temperatures that stay below zero degrees all year round, with
permanent ice, snow and wind speeds that can reach up to 160 kilometres per
hour. Temperature ranges in summer can reach a maximum of 12 degrees at 3
000 metres. Minimum temperatures are found higher up at around 5 000
metres, where the temperature rarely reaches above 0 degrees.

Due to the alpine conditions, the soil quality is very low in
fertility due to the poor nutrient cycling.Without trees the biomass
levels are lowered, meaning that there is hardly any decaying material that
can adequately return nutrients to the soil.The poor soil quality can
only support certain types of vegetation, this includes junipers, mosses
and rhododendrons. Commonly these plants form meadows that can be found up
to heights of 5 000 metres. Above this height, it is rare to see any
vegetation as plants cannot survive in frost. The fragile nature of the
nutrient cycle and energy transfer rates make the Himalayas very vulnerable
to change.

There are only a few carnivores that can survive above the tree line,
for example the Snow Leopard, Himalayan Brown Bear, Red Panda and Tibetan
Yak. Animals that habitat the area have adapted to the climatic conditions
of the Himalayas. In Summer, animals migrate higher up to the grasslands,
and in Winter they migrate lower for warmer temperatures.The Himalayan
Black Bear hibernates, but unlike other bears, there is no set season since
the weather is always at freezing point. Carnivores have also adapted to
the smaller amount of food, making the carnivores proportionally smaller
having to feed off small animals like rabbits.The primary consumers in
the food chain is hugely vulnerable as the carnivores have a limited food
supply in the high altitudes. Secondary consumers can survive above the
tree line because of the vegetation that still grows up to 5 000 metres.

This makes the herbivores resilient to change because the vegetation growth
covers thousands of square kilometres and because the mosses, meadows and
grasslands etc. have adapted to the alpine conditions.

3. Explain the impacts of natural stress and human induced stress where
possible include rates of change.

The characteristics of an alpine ecosystem make it exceptionally
vulnerable to natural and human induced stress. The Himalayas are prone to
a regular occurrence of natural disasters because the mountains lie
directly on a fault between the Eurasian and Indian Australian tectonic
plates. Being the home to the highest point on Earth, the Himalayas is
unsurprisingly a popular tourist location. As a result humans have “taken
control” of the area, and simultaneously destroying the ecosystem.

Earthquakes take an immediate effect on the Himalayas, triggering
giant landslides. Large portions of rocks and boulders break off the
mountain slope and travel towards the bottom, destroying large amounts of
flora and fauna. Earthquakes also make the terrain unstable, rendering the
area useless. Although glaciers are very tiny compared to what they were
hundreds of years ago, they are still considerably significant in impacting
the natural environment. Glaciers are a long-term major cause for mass
amounts of erosion, where there is little vegetation cover in the alpine
regions. The terminal moraine which gets left behind by a glacier can be
the cause of future landslides. Avalanches have an instant impact, with
thousands of tons of ice falling down the slope of distances up to 1.5
kilometres. It is in the alpine regions that these avalanches take place.

Land forms are often changed by avalanches as the snow settles with rock
fragments permanently. Alpine pastures and grasslands get buried under the
ice, destroying anything in its path.

Landslides can also be the consequence of human induced stress.The
construction of roads and pathways can be the cause of landslides over both
a long and short period of time. When constructing a pathway huge chunks
of mountain is blasted away, disrupting the rock formations and causing it
to become unsettled. The tall peaks of the Himalayas have become the most
popular mountaineering spot in the world, attracting hundreds of trekkers.

The visitors leave behind tons of litter, polluting the environment and
endangering the animals. Whilst it is uncommon today, quarrying in the
Himalayas took place. Tons of top soil and small vegetation was removed,
making a barren landscape that has little nutritious value. The beneficial
top soil is a key factor in keeping the ecosystem healthy, with it removed
the ecosystem is disrupted and can collapse.Himalayan flora is often
taken for medical purposes. Herbs are taken from entire mountain slopes
and meadows by the locals. They are processed and are put into perfumes
and medications.

4. Evaluate a range of strategies used at a variety of scales which are
being used to manage the ecosystem chosen.

Both the Indian and Nepalese governments have established conservation
programs to protect the Himalayan mountain range.A number of national
parks and sanctuaries have been created to help preserve the biodiversity
of the region. Nepal has a total of ten currently in place, that is, seven
national parks and three wildlife reserves.These are under the local
scale of the National Parks and Wildlife Conservation Department of the
Nepalese government.Although these parks are starting to have a positive
effect on the Himalayas, the conservation areas are simply inadequate.The
total area the parks and reserves cover is just over 20 000 square
kilometres, compared to the 594 400 square kilometres that the Himalayan
region spreads across.

The Sagarmatha National Park is an example of a global strategy being
used to manage the Himalayan ecosystem. The park is currently on the World
Heritage List and was added in 1979.The Sagarmatha is located 3 000
metres above sea level, successfully making it the highest national park in
the world. The park centres around Mt Everest, covering 1 148 square
kilometres, thus including a diverse climatic environment. The land above
the tree line is classified into two zones, alpine scrub and the upper
alpine. In the upper alpine at 5 750 metres, vegetation ceases to grow in
the harsh conditions. At this height, the alpine environment is very
similar to that of a tundra ecosystem, where there is a permanent snowline
and no trees can grow.The Sagarmatha has been very successful in
protecting a number of endangered species such as the wild yak, red panda,
snow leopard, musk deer and the Himalayan black bear.The park has set
regulations to further ensure the condition of the ecosystem stays healthy,
all flora and fauna must not be disturbed, rubbish must be buried or put in
a refuse pit, mountain bikes are prohibited and there is no climbing of
cliffs below 6000 metres unless you have a permit from theNepal
Mountaineering Association.

pic pic
The Dhorpatan Hunting Reserve is a local strategy used to ensure the
safety of animals outside of the reserve.The Dhorpatan is the only
hunting reserve in the Himalayas and hunters must pay a large game fee if
they want to enter. Although animals are hunted as trophy’s the reserve
is a smart way to satisfy the hunters, in return the number of animals
killed is kept to a bare minimum to what may be occurring if the reserve
was not offered. The reserve extends in elevation from 2 850 – 7 000
metres. The total area the reserve covers is 1 325 square kilometres,
located in the Dhaulagiri Himalaya range in Western Nepal.

The Annapurna Conservation Area Project (ACAP) isaregional
management strategy that is the first and largest conservation area in
Nepal. The ACAP stretches across 7 629 square kilometres of Nepal,
including 55 villages. Since there is a large community included in the
region, the project focuses and relies on the traditional ways of the
indigenous people for a sound conservation program. The goal of the ACAP
is that the villagers will ultimately run the whole project, with little
interference from the government and other institutions. The project also
concentrates on education and awareness in hopes of keeping conservation
efforts at a maximum.The Annapurna is a highly favouredtourist
destination with over 40 000 tourists hiking the area. An entry fee has
been implemented to lower the number of people visiting the area.

Dang. R. (1998). Flowers of the Western Himalayas: Environmental threats to
Himalayan flora. India: Wilderness Films.

Department of National Parks and Wildlife Conservation: Sagarmatha Nation
Park. (n/a). Government of Nepal. Available Online: http://www.south- 10/02/04
Encyclopaedia Britannica. (2003). Britannica Elementary Encyclopaedia:

Facts on file. (1987). Himalayas: Growing mountains, living myths,
migrating peoples. New York: Oxford.

Himalayas: Where Earth Meets Sky. (1997). Think Quest team. Available
Online: 28/01/04
Kleeman. G. (2000). A Geography of Interactions 2: Ecosystems at Risk.

Australia: Heinemann.

Managing Wholes: Ecosystem processes. (2003). Donovan. P. Available Online: 25/01/04
Nicholson. N. (1975). World’s Wild Places: The Himalayas. Amsterdam: Time-
Life International.

Ongoing Projects of KMTNC: Annapurna Conservation Area Project. (n/a) King
Mahendra Trust for Nature Conservation. Available Online: http://www.south- 16/02/04
World Heritage: Sagarmatha National Park. (2000). World Heritage team.

Available Online: 09/02/04
A Mt Everest Glacier
Mountain Peaks in
Himalayan Black Bear
The Snowline in Annapurna
Tibetan Yak
Dhaulagiri Mountain


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