Plant Diversity ›› 2019, Vol. 41 ›› Issue (03): 174-182.DOI: 10.1016/j.pld.2019.04.004

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Plant endemism in the Nepal Himalayas and phytogeographical implications

Achyut Tiwaria,b, Yadav Upretyc,d, Santosh Kumar Ranae,f   

  1. a Department of Botany, Tri-Chandra Campus, Tribhuvan University, Kathmandu, Nepal;
    b Central Department of Botany, Tribhuvan University, Kirtipur, Kathmandu, Nepal;
    c Research Centre for Applied Science and Technology, Tribhuvan University, Kathmandu, Nepal;
    d IUCN(International Union for Conservation of Nature), Kathmandu, Nepal;
    e Key Laboratory for Plant Diversity and Biogeography of East Asia, Kunming Institute of Botany Chinese Academy of Sciences, Kunming, 650201, Yunnan, China;
    f University of Chinese Academy of Sciences, Beijing, 100049, China
  • Received:2018-09-30 Revised:2019-04-11 Online:2019-06-25 Published:2019-08-15
  • Contact: Achyut Tiwari,E-mail

Abstract: Nepal is located in the central part of the greater Himalayan range with a unique series of mountain chains formed by recent mountain building geological events. As one of the youngest mountains in the world it contributes to diversity of plants and also provided barriers to and corridors through which plants migrated during the ice ages. The higher altitudinal variation with the high mountains, deep river valleys and lowland plains combine with the effects of the summer monsoon and dry winter result with an extraordinary diversity of ecosystems including flora and fauna in a relatively small land area. The existing checklists for Nepal record some 6000 species of flowering plants and about 530 ferns. However, the botanical experts estimate that numbers may go up to 7000 when the poorly known remote regions are fully explored. The information on plant endemism in Nepal Himalaya is not adequately known as Nepal is still struggling to complete long awaited Flora of Nepal project. Endemic species are confined to specific areas and are the first to be affected by land use and other global changes. We sought to explore the spatial distribution of endemic plant species in Nepal in relation to the consequences associated with climatic and geologic changes over time in the region with the help of published literature. It was found that the endemism showed marked spatial variation between open moist habitat and dry inner valleys, the former with higher endemism. The updated records showed 312 flowering plant species to be endemic to Nepal with higher endemism around the elevation of 3800e4200 m at sea level. The recent human population explosion, intensified deforestation, habitat fragmentation and modern day environmental changes are posing greater threats to endemic plant in Nepal. The conservation status and threats to these peculiar species are unknown. Nevertheless, environmental degradation and high poverty rates create a potent mix of threats to biodiversity in this landscape.

Key words: Himalaya, Topography, Endemism