Ecosystems at Risk

Ecosystems at Risk
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.
2. Outline the main features of the functioning of this case study with particular reference to what makes this ecosystem vulnerable and/or resilient. 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. Rhododendrons [image] http://www.trekkinginhimalayas.com/photo_gallery.cfm?pno=4 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. Tibetan Yak 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 the Nepal Mountaineering Association. MountainPeaksin Sagarmarthal 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. DhaulagiriMountain [image] The Annapurna Conservation Area Project (acap) is a regional 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 favoured tourist destination with over 40 000 tourists hiking the area. An entry fee has been implemented to lower the number of people visiting the area.

Ecosystems at Risk 6.9 of 10 on the basis of 3903 Review.