Scientists look for a common language in Himalaya ecology

The Himalaya range of mountains is famous all over the world. This is the world’s largest mountain range with fastest uplift rate hosts enormous physical as well as biological resources. The Himalayan region of Pakistan is actually the well known Western Himalayan Province famous for its unique flora and fauna of endemic and threatened nature. The Himalayas of Pakistan not only preserve the precious biodiversity but also provide precious ecosystem services including supporting, providing and cultural services. The Himalayan highlands of Pakistan provide uncountable environmental benefits and socioeconomics standing to the dwellers of the region. The area is blessed with the world’s highest plateaus, glaciers, snow fields, forests, wildlife and immense unexplored genetic resources.

Mountains of Pakistan
Mountains of Pakistan. Photo: Shujaul Mulk Khan.

To explore ecological issues in the Himalaya region, Hazara University, of Pakistan, is holding what is hoped to be just the first of a series of symposia on conservation issues. This symposium will not only gather the experts to discuss the potential and issue from different points of view but will also provide an opportunity to introduce the area internationally in terms of research and the ecotourism industry.

A trans-disciplinary symposium has the ability to draw together multiple researchers in different fields who might be tackling the same problems in isolation from each other. A recent review in Annals of Botany argued that we should be combining Importance Value Indices (IVIs) based on classifications of species assemblages and environmental biodiversity gradients and Use Values (UVs) that use anthropological methods to examine how local communities use different plants. This could be unexpectedly wide, as the difference in altitude over a small distance means one community could access many different ecological niches.

This local experience adds an important dimension to the accepted biodiversity conservation criteria – rarity, threat and endemism. Species can also have historical, traditional and educational values. These are values that are as much under threat as the plants themselves as urbanism encroaches on local communities, and could be a significant loss. For example ethnomedical knowledge can help recognise and preserve important species. If we do not pay attention to the loss this cultural practice, then its loss might also lead to losing the plant itself and any uses it might have.

The event will be held November 27-30, at Hazara University, Mansehra. The aim of this event will be to introduce the potential and problems of biodiversity and ecosystems of this region and to mitigate the issues through proper involvements of the relevant stakeholders.