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With their steep terrain, fragmented landscape and thermal gradients, mountain ecosystems are host to higher species richness and levels of endemism than adjacent lowlands. Many organisms adapt and specialise in these microhabitats, which can provide islands of suitable habitat isolated from unfavourable surrounding lowlands.
Biogeographically, the Hindu Kush Himalayas straddles a transition zone between the Palearctic and Indo-Malayan realms. Species from both realms are found in the region, with a high proportion of globally threatened plants and animals facing high levels of human pressure.
The region hosts all or part of four areas labelled as Global Biodiversity Hotspots: the Himalayas, Indo-Burma, Mountains of South-West China, and Mountains of Central Asia. Mountain species with narrow habitat tolerance, particularly higher elevation forms and those with low dispersal capacity, are at high risk from the environmental effects of climate change.
The region’s increasing population has led to widespread logging, intensive overgrazing, wetland drainage for subsistence purposes, and extensive clearing of forests and grasslands for cultivation. Inappropriate land management and ill-planned development have led to the fragmentation of remaining habitats.
Stretching along the southern side of Mount Kangchenjunga, the Kangchenjunga Landscape (KL) is one of the six transboundary landscapes identified by the International Centre for Integrated Mountain Development (ICIMOD) in the Hindu Kush Himalayan (HKH) region.
The Kailash Sacred Landscape Conservation and Development Initiative (KSLCDI) is a collaborative programme being implemented across the borders of China, India, and Nepal.