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Concept: Himalayas


In the first ever systematic genetic survey, we have used rigorous decontamination followed by mitochondrial 12S RNA sequencing to identify the species origin of 30 hair samples attributed to anomalous primates. Two Himalayan samples, one from Ladakh, India, the other from Bhutan, had their closest genetic affinity with a Palaeolithic polar bear, Ursus maritimus. Otherwise the hairs were from a range of known extant mammals.

Concepts: DNA, Gene, Molecular biology, Mammal, Himalayas, Bear, Polar bear, Polar Beverages


The Himalayan Sherpas, a human population of Tibetan descent, are highly adapted to life in the hypobaric hypoxia of high altitude. Mechanisms involving enhanced tissue oxygen delivery in comparison to Lowlander populations have been postulated to play a role in such adaptation. Whether differences in tissue oxygen utilization (i.e., metabolic adaptation) underpin this adaptation is not known, however. We sought to address this issue, applying parallel molecular, biochemical, physiological, and genetic approaches to the study of Sherpas and native Lowlanders, studied before and during exposure to hypobaric hypoxia on a gradual ascent to Mount Everest Base Camp (5,300 m). Compared with Lowlanders, Sherpas demonstrated a lower capacity for fatty acid oxidation in skeletal muscle biopsies, along with enhanced efficiency of oxygen utilization, improved muscle energetics, and protection against oxidative stress. This adaptation appeared to be related, in part, to a putatively advantageous allele for the peroxisome proliferator-activated receptor A (PPARA) gene, which was enriched in the Sherpas compared with the Lowlanders. Our findings suggest that metabolic adaptations underpin human evolution to life at high altitude, and could have an impact upon our understanding of human diseases in which hypoxia is a feature.

Concepts: Genetics, Evolution, Altitude sickness, Charles Darwin, Himalayas, Mount Everest, Everest Base Camp, Sherpa


Mountain ecosystems all over the world support a high biological diversity and provide home and services to some 12% of the global human population, who use their traditional ecological knowledge to utilise local natural resources. The Himalayas are the world’s youngest, highest and largest mountain range and support a high plant biodiversity. Due to their remote location, harsh climate, rough terrain and topography, many areas within this region still remain poorly known for its floristic diversity, plant species distribution and vegetation ecosystem service. The Naran valley in the north-western Pakistan is among such valleys and occupies a distinctive geographical location on the edge of the Western Himalaya range, close to the Hindu Kush range to the west and the Karakorum Mountains to the north. It is also located on climatic and geological divides, which further add to its botanical interest. In this remote mountainous region of the Himalaya, people depend upon local plant resources to supply a range of goods and services, including grazing for livestock and medicinal supplies for themselves. This paper focuses on assessment of medicinal plant species valued by local communities using their traditional knowledge. Our findings demonstrate the range of ecosystem services that are provided by the vegetation and assess how utilisation of plants will impact on future resource sustainability. In the present project 120 informants were interviewed at 12 main localities along the 60 km long valley. Results revealed that 101 species belonging to 52 families (51.5% of the total plants) were used for 97 prominent therapeutic purposes. The largest number of ailments cured with medicinal plants were associated with the digestive system (32.76% responses) followed by those associated with the respiratory and urinary systems (13.72% and 9.13% respectively). The ailments associated with the blood circulatory and reproductive systems and the skin were 7.37%, 7.04% and 7.03%, respectively. The results also indicate that whole plants were used in 54% of recipes followed by rhizomes (21%), fruits (9.5%) and roots (5.5%). The study not only contributes to an improved understanding of traditional ethno-ecological knowledge amongst the peoples of the Western Himalaya but also identifies priorities at species and habitat level for local and regional plant conservation strategies.

Concepts: Biodiversity, Ecology, Ecosystem, Himalayas, North-West Frontier Province, Karakoram, Hindu Kush, Mountain ranges of Pakistan


Urbanism in the Bronze-age Indus Civilisation (~4.6-3.9 thousand years before the present, ka) has been linked to water resources provided by large Himalayan river systems, although the largest concentrations of urban-scale Indus settlements are located far from extant Himalayan rivers. Here we analyse the sedimentary architecture, chronology and provenance of a major palaeochannel associated with many of these settlements. We show that the palaeochannel is a former course of the Sutlej River, the third largest of the present-day Himalayan rivers. Using optically stimulated luminescence dating of sand grains, we demonstrate that flow of the Sutlej in this course terminated considerably earlier than Indus occupation, with diversion to its present course complete shortly after ~8 ka. Indus urban settlements thus developed along an abandoned river valley rather than an active Himalayan river. Confinement of the Sutlej to its present incised course after ~8 ka likely reduced its propensity to re-route frequently thus enabling long-term stability for Indus settlements sited along the relict palaeochannel.

Concepts: Time, Water, Urban planning, Himalayas, Bronze Age, Indus River, Indus Valley Civilization, Sutlej


Ongoing climate warming has been demonstrated to impact the cryosphere in the Indian Himalayas, with substantial consequences for the risk of disasters, human well-being, and terrestrial ecosystems. Here, we present evidence that the warming observed in recent decades has been accompanied by increased snow avalanche frequency in the Western Indian Himalayas. Using dendrogeomorphic techniques, we reconstruct the longest time series (150 y) of the occurrence and runout distances of snow avalanches that is currently available for the Himalayas. We apply a generalized linear autoregressive moving average model to demonstrate linkages between climate warming and the observed increase in the incidence of snow avalanches. Warming air temperatures in winter and early spring have indeed favored the wetting of snow and the formation of wet snow avalanches, which are now able to reach down to subalpine slopes, where they have high potential to cause damage. These findings contradict the intuitive notion that warming results in less snow, and thus lower avalanche activity, and have major implications for the Western Himalayan region, an area where human pressure is constantly increasing. Specifically, increasing traffic on a steadily expanding road network is calling for an immediate design of risk mitigation strategies and disaster risk policies to enhance climate change adaption in the wider study region.

Concepts: Snow, Climate change, Risk management, Noise, Global warming, Himalayas, Autoregressive moving average model, Avalanche


The high-altitude transverse valleys [>3,000 m above sea level (masl)] of the Himalayan arc from Arunachal Pradesh to Ladahk were among the last habitable places permanently colonized by prehistoric humans due to the challenges of resource scarcity, cold stress, and hypoxia. The modern populations of these valleys, who share cultural and linguistic affinities with peoples found today on the Tibetan plateau, are commonly assumed to be the descendants of the earliest inhabitants of the Himalayan arc. However, this assumption has been challenged by archaeological and osteological evidence suggesting that these valleys may have been originally populated from areas other than the Tibetan plateau, including those at low elevation. To investigate the peopling and early population history of this dynamic high-altitude contact zone, we sequenced the genomes (0.04×-7.25×, mean 2.16×) and mitochondrial genomes (20.8×-1,311.0×, mean 482.1×) of eight individuals dating to three periods with distinct material culture in the Annapurna Conservation Area (ACA) of Nepal, spanning 3,150-1,250 y before present (yBP). We demonstrate that the region is characterized by long-term stability of the population genetic make-up despite marked changes in material culture. The ancient genomes, uniparental haplotypes, and high-altitude adaptive alleles suggest a high-altitude East Asian origin for prehistoric Himalayan populations.

Concepts: Gene, Genetics, Biology, Culture, Arunachal Pradesh, Archaeology, Himalayas, Tibet


The Himalayan mountains are dissected by some of the deepest and most impressive gorges on Earth. Constraining the interplay between river incision and rock uplift is important for understanding tectonic deformation in this region. We report here the discovery of a deeply incised canyon of the Yarlung Tsangpo River, at the eastern end of the Himalaya, which is now buried under more than 500 meters of sediments. By reconstructing the former valley bottom and dating sediments at the base of the valley fill, we show that steepening of the Tsangpo Gorge started at about 2 million to 2.5 million years ago as a consequence of an increase in rock uplift rates. The high erosion rates within the gorge are therefore a direct consequence of rapid rock uplift.

Concepts: People's Republic of China, Erosion, Himalayas, Yarlung Zangbo River, Brahmaputra River, Geography of Tibet, Rivers of Tibet, Yarlung Zangbo Grand Canyon


Indian Himalayan basins are earmarked for widespread dam building, but aggregate effects of these dams on terrestrial ecosystems are unknown. We mapped distribution of 292 dams (under construction and proposed) and projected effects of these dams on terrestrial ecosystems under different scenarios of land-cover loss. We analyzed land-cover data of the Himalayan valleys, where dams are located. We estimated dam density on fifth- through seventh-order rivers and compared these estimates with current global figures. We used a species-area relation model (SAR) to predict short- and long-term species extinctions driven by deforestation. We used scatter plots and correlation studies to analyze distribution patterns of species and dams and to reveal potential overlap between species-rich areas and dam sites. We investigated effects of disturbance on community structure of undisturbed forests. Nearly 90% of Indian Himalayan valleys would be affected by dam building and 27% of these dams would affect dense forests. Our model projected that 54,117 ha of forests would be submerged and 114,361 ha would be damaged by dam-related activities. A dam density of 0.3247/1000 km(2) would be nearly 62 times greater than current average global figures; the average of 1 dam for every 32 km of river channel would be 1.5 times higher than figures reported for U.S. rivers. Our results show that most dams would be located in species-rich areas of the Himalaya. The SAR model projected that by 2025, deforestation due to dam building would likely result in extinction of 22 angiosperm and 7 vertebrate taxa. Disturbance due to dam building would likely reduce tree species richness by 35%, tree density by 42%, and tree basal cover by 30% in dense forests. These results, combined with relatively weak national environmental impact assessment and implementation, point toward significant loss of species if all proposed dams in the Indian Himalaya are constructed. Efectos Potenciales del Desarrollo Hidroeléctrico Actual y Propuesto sobre la Diversidad Biológica Terrestre en el Himalaya Hindú

Concepts: Biodiversity, River, Extinction, Dam, Impact assessment, Hydroelectricity, Himalayas, Environmental impact assessment


The Himalayan mountain range is strategically located at the crossroads of the major cultural centers in Asia, the Middle East and Europe. Although previous Y-chromosome studies indicate that the Himalayas served as a natural barrier for gene flow from the south to the Tibetan plateau, this region is believed to have played an important role as a corridor for human migrations between East and West Eurasia along the ancient Silk Road. To evaluate the effects of the Himalayan mountain range in shaping the maternal lineages of populations residing on either side of the cordillera, we analyzed mitochondrial DNA variation in 344 samples from three Nepalese collections (Newar, Kathmandu and Tamang) and a general population of Tibet. Our results revealed a predominantly East Asian-specific component in Tibet and Tamang, whereas Newar and Kathmandu are both characterized by a combination of East and South Central Asian lineages. Interestingly, Newar and Kathmandu harbor several deep-rooted Indian lineages, including M2, R5, and U2, whose coalescent times from this study (U2, >40 kya) and previous reports (M2 and R5, >50 kya) suggest that Nepal was inhabited during the initial peopling of South Central Asia. Comparisons with our previous Y-chromosome data indicate sex-biased migrations in Tamang and a founder effect and/or genetic drift in Tamang and Newar. Altogether, our results confirm that while the Himalayas acted as a geographic barrier for human movement from the Indian subcontinent to the Tibetan highland, it also served as a conduit for gene flow between Central and East Asia. Am J Phys Anthropol 000:000-000, 2013. © 2013 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.

Concepts: Middle East, Asia, South Asia, Himalayas, Tibet, Nepal, Central Asia, Eurasia


The purpose of this study was to review the patient characteristics and management of 56 cases of high altitude pulmonary edema at the Pheriche Himalayan Rescue Association Medical Aid Post, and to measure the use of medications in addition to descent and oxygen.

Concepts: Pulmonology, Himalayas, High altitude pulmonary edema