Unreported yet massive deforestation driving loss of endemic biodiversity in Indian Himalaya

Abstract

Deforestation is a primary driver of biotic extinctions in the tropics. The impacts of deforestation in tropical biodiversity hotspots are of particular concern because these regions contain high concentrations of globally endemic species. However, the effects of large-scale deforestation on native biotas within the biodiversity hotspot of Himalaya remain poorly documented. Here we report on an alarming trend of deforestation in the Indian Himalaya and project the likely consequential extinctions of endemic taxa (species and subspecies) by 2100 across a broad range of taxonomic groups, including gymnosperms, angiosperms, fishes, amphibians, reptiles, birds, and mammals. With the current level of deforestation, by 2100 only about 10% of the land area of the Indian Himalaya will be covered by dense forest (>40% canopy cover)—a scenario in which almost a quarter of the endemic species could be wiped out, including 366 endemic vascular plant taxa and 35 endemic vertebrate taxa. We also show that inaccurate reporting of forest cover data by governmental institutions can result in underestimations of the biological impacts of deforestation, as well as potential miscalculations in land-use decisions (e.g., the construction of hydroelectric dams). Large-scale conservation efforts, including forest protection and reforestation, are urgently needed to avoid the impending deforestation-driven biodiversity losses in the Himalaya.

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Acknowledgements

We thank Dr JP Bhatt for help and Rajinder Mehta for assistance in GIS and image processing work.

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Correspondence to M. K. Pandit.

Appendix

Appendix

Table 1 Original forest area and forest area remaining from 1970 to 2100 in Himalaya based on data from satellite data (a) & (b) and the Indian Agricultural Statistics Summary (IAS) (c)

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Pandit, M.K., Sodhi, N.S., Koh, L.P. et al. Unreported yet massive deforestation driving loss of endemic biodiversity in Indian Himalaya. Biodivers Conserv 16, 153–163 (2007). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10531-006-9038-5

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Keywords

  • Extinctions
  • Hot spots
  • Deforestation
  • Species–area-relationship
  • Endemic species