Tropical Ecology

, Volume 60, Issue 2, pp 288–298 | Cite as

Faunal abundance along timberline ecotone in western Himalaya with reference to anthropogenic pressure and season: a case study

  • Sabuj BhattacharyyaEmail author
  • Gopal Singh Rawat
  • Bhupendra Singh Adhikari
Research Article


High anthropogenic pressure not only affects individual species, but also has a negative impact on overall ecosystem health and its resilience capability, especially in the ecosystem transition zone, such as “timberline ecotone”. Timberline ecotone in western Himalaya is currently facing dual threat due to climate change and anthropogenic pressures. The present study aims to enhance our understanding about how various mammal and bird species use this ecotone across seasons and gradient of anthropogenic pressure, using standard animal abundance estimation method in the state of Uttarakhand, India. Ten mammalian species, five birds of prey, four pheasant, and fifty-three small bird species were found to use timberline ecotone during different seasons. The timberline ecotone experiences high anthropogenic pressure during summer and monsoon. The abundance of mammal such as Himalayan musk deer (β = − 1.62 ± 0.50, P < 0.01) and pheasant such as Himalayan monal (β = − 0.38 ± 0.15, P < 0.01) were found to be negatively influenced by wood cutting, livestock grazing. The density and species richness of small birds were comparatively higher in moderately disturbed sites than that of highest or least disturbed sites. In addition, the small bird species composition varied significantly across sites with different anthropogenic pressure. This study revealed the differential impact of anthropogenic pressure on various mammalian and bird species, which utilized timberline ecotone seasonally or year round. Furthermore, the result of the present study also indicated faunal species (e.g., Himalayan musk deer), which could be used as indicator species to understand impact and magnitude of anthropogenic pressure on timberline ecotone.


Faunal abundance Habitat disturbance Himalaya Population estimation Treeline 



Authors are thankful to the Director, Wildlife Institute of India, Dehradun for providing necessary facilities and support and Uttarakhand State Forest Department for permission. Thanks are also due to Mr. Pankaj Singh Bisht and Mr. Gabbar Singh Bisht for their help during the fieldwork, and Dr. Monika Kaushik for helping with data analysis and Ms Ankita Sinha for bird identification.


Funding was provided by Ministry of Environment and Forests, Govt of India.

Supplementary material

42965_2019_33_MOESM1_ESM.docx (25 kb)
Supplementary material 1 (DOCX 32 kb)


  1. Adhikari BS, Rawat GS, Bhattacharyya S, Rai ID, Bharti RR (2012) Ecological assessment of timberline ecotone with special reference to climate change and anthropogenic pressure. Final Report. Wildlife Institute of India, DehradunGoogle Scholar
  2. Ali S, Ripley SD (1983) Handbook of the Birds of India and Pakistan, vol 1–10. Oxford University Press, New DelhiGoogle Scholar
  3. Barry RG (1992) Mountain weather and climate. Routledge, LondonCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Bhatt BP, Sachan MS (2004) Firewood consumption along an altitudinal gradient in mountain villages of India. Biomass Bioenergy 27:69–75CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Bhattacharya T, Sathyakumar S (2011) Natural resource use by humans and response of wild ungulates: a case study from Bedini-Ali, Nanda Devi Biosphere Reserve, India. Mt Res Dev 31:209–219CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Bhattacharya T, Sathyakumar S, Rawat GS (2009) Distribution and abundance of Galliformes in response to anthropogenic pressures in the buffer zone of Nanda Devi biosphere reserve. Int J Galliformes Conserv 1:78–84Google Scholar
  7. Bhattacharyya S, Smith AT (2018) Species account: Ochotona roylei. In: Smith AT, Johnston C, Alves P, Hacklender K (eds) Lagomoprhs: pikas, rabbits, and hares of the World. John Hopkins University Press, Baltimore, pp 75–76Google Scholar
  8. Bhattacharyya S, Adhikari BS, Rawat GS (2013) Forage selection by Royle’s pika (Ochotona roylei) in the western Himalaya, India. Zool 116:300–306CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Brandon KE, Wells M (1992) Planning for people and parks: design dilemmas. World Dev 20:557–570CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Colwell RK (2013) Estimates: statistical estimation of species richness and shared species from samples. Version 9. User’s Guide and application. Accessed Mar 2019
  11. Connell JH (1978) Diversity in tropical rain forests and coral reefs. Science 199:1302–1310CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. De Boer WF, Baquete DS (1998) Natural resource use, crop damage and attitudes of rural people in the vicinity of the Maputo elephant reserve, Mozambique. Environ Conserv 25:208–218CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Duckworth JW, MacKinnon J (2008) Capricornis thar. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species 2008:e.T3816A10096556.
  14. Fleishman E, McDonal N, Nally RM, Murphy DD, Walters J, Floyd T (2003) Effects of floristics, physiognomy and non-native vegetation on riparian bird communities in a Mojave Desert watershed. J Anim Ecol 72:484–490CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Fuller RA, Garson PJ (2000) Pheasants: status survey and conservation action plan 2000–2004. IUCN Publications Services Unit, CambridgeGoogle Scholar
  16. Gehrig-Fasel J, Guisan A, Zimmermann NE (2007) Tree line shifts in the Swiss Alps: climate change or land abandonment. J Veg Sci 18:571–582CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Ghimire KB, Pimbert MPE (1997) Social change and conservation: environmental politics and impacts of national parks and protected areas. Earthscan Publications, LondonGoogle Scholar
  18. Gray MA, Baldauf SL, Mayhew PJ (2007) The response of avian feeding guilds to tropical forest disturbance. Conserv Biol 21:133–141CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Green MJB (1985) Aspects of the ecology of the Himalayan musk deer. Ph.D. thesis, Cambridge University, UKGoogle Scholar
  20. Hegde R, Enters T (2000) Forest products and households economy: a case study from Mudumalai Wildlife Sanctuary, Southern India. Environ Conserv 27:250–259CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Hofgaard A, Wilmann B (2002) Plant distribution pattern across the forest-tundra ecotone: the importance of treeline position. Ecoscience 9:375–385CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Holmes TL, Knight RL, Stegall L et al (1993) Responses of wintering grassland raptors to human disturbance. Wildl Soc Bull 21:461–468Google Scholar
  23. Huston MA (1994) Biological diversity: the coexistence of species on changing landscapes. Cambridge University Press, New YorkGoogle Scholar
  24. Jolli V, Pandit MK (2011) Influence of human disturbance on the abundance of Himalayan pheasant (Aves, Galliformes) in the temperate forest of Western Himalaya, India. Vestnik Zoologii 45:40–47CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Kala CP, Kothari KK (2013) Livestock predation by common leopard in Binsar Wildlife Sanctuary, India: human-wildlife conflicts and conservation issues. Hum Wildl Interact 7:325–333Google Scholar
  26. Kala CP, Rawat GS (1999) Effects of livestock grazing on the species diversity and biomass production in the alpine meadows of Garhwal Himalaya, India. Trop Ecol 40:69–74Google Scholar
  27. Kala CP, Singh SK, Rawat GS (2002) Effects of sheep and goat grazing on the species diversity in the alpine meadows of Western Himalaya. Environmentalist 22:183–189CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Kittur S, Sathyakumar S, Rawat GS (2010) Assessment of spatial and habitat use overlap between Himalayan Thar and livestock in Kedarnath Wildlife Sanctuary, India. Eur J Wildl Res 56:195–204. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Körner C (2007) The use of ‘altitude’ in ecological research. Trends Ecol Evol 22:569–574CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Kullman L, Kjallgren L (2006) Holocene pine tree-line evolution in the Swedish Scandes: recent tree-line rise and climate change in a long-term perspective. Boreas 35:159–168CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Kumar R, Shahabuddin G (2005) Effects of biomass extraction on vegetation structure, diversity and composition of forests in Sariska Tiger Reserve, India. Environ Conserv 32:248–259CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Kumar R, Shahabuddin G, Kumar A (2011) How good are managed forests at conserving native woodpecker communities? A study in sub-Himalayan dipterocarp forests of northwest India. Biol Conserv 144:1876–1884CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Lanszki J, Heltai M, Szabó L (2006) Feeding habits and trophic niche overlap between sympatric golden jackal (Canis aureus) and red fox (Vulpes vulpes) in the Pannonian ecoregion (Hungary). Can J Zool 84:1647–1656CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Lee PF, Ding TS, Hsu FH, Geng S (2004) Breeding bird species richness in Taiwan: distribution on gradients of elevation, primary productivity and urbanization. J Biogeogr 31:307–314CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Luckman BH, Kavanagh TA (2000) Impact of climate fluctuations on mountain environments in the Canadian Rockies. Ambio 29:371–380CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. Mehta VK, Sullivan PJ, Walter MT, Krishnaswamy J, DeGloria SD (2008) Ecosystem impacts of disturbance in a dry tropical forest in southern India. Ecohydrology 1:161–175CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. Mielke PW Jr, Berry KJ, Johnson ES (1976) Multi-response permutation procedures for a priori classifications. Commun Stat Theory Methods 5:1409–1424CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. Mohan D (2007) Habitat Selection of Birds in New Forest, Dehradun, India. Ph.D. Thesis. Forest Research Institute, Dehradun, IndiaGoogle Scholar
  39. Moritz C, Patton JL, Conroy CJ, Parra JL, White GC, Beissinger S (2008) Impact of a century of climate change on small-mammal communities in Yosemite National Park, USA. Science 322:261–264CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. Naftz DL, Susong DD, Schuster PF, Cecil LD, Dettinger MD, Michel RL, Kendall C (2002) Ice core evidence of rapid air temperature increases since 1960 in alpine areas of the Wind River Range, Wyoming, United States. J Geophys Res 107:10–29CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. Nicholson MC, Bowyer RT, Kie JG (1997) Habitat selection and survival of mule deer: tradeoffs associated with migration. J Mamm 78:483–504CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  42. O’Connell TJ, Jackson LE, Brooks RP (2000) Bird guilds as indicators of ecological conditions in the central Appalachians. Ecol Appl 10:1706–1721CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  43. Owen-Smith N (1979) Assessing the foraging efficiency of a browsing ungulate, the kudu. S Afr J Wildl Res 9:102–110Google Scholar
  44. Packlatko T, Nievergelt B (1985) Time budgeting, range use pattern and relationships with groups of individually marked chamois. In: Lovari S (ed) The biology and management of Mountain Ungulates. Croom Helm, London, pp 93–101Google Scholar
  45. Peh KSH, de Jong J, Sodhi NS, Lim SLH, Yap CAM (2005) Lowland rainforest avifauna and human disturbance: persistence of primary forest birds in selectively logged forests and mixed-rural habitats of Southern Peninsular Malaysia. Biol Conserv 123:489–505CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  46. Postovit HR, Postovit BC (1987) Impacts and Mitigation Techniques. In: Giron Pendleton BA et al (eds) Raptor Management Techniques Manual. Institute for Wildlife Research, National Wildlife Federation. Scientific and Technical Series No. 10. Washington, DC, pp 183–213Google Scholar
  47. Ramesh K (2003) An ecological study on pheasants of The Great Himalayan National Park, Western Himalaya. Ph.D. Dissertation. Forest Research Institute, Deemed University, DehradunGoogle Scholar
  48. Rao KS, Maikhuri RK, Nautiyal S, Saxena KG (2002) Crop damage and livestock depredation by wildlife: a case study from Nanda Devi Biosphere Reserve, India. J Environ Manage 66:317–327CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  49. Rapport DJ, Costanza R, McMichael AJ (1998) Assessing ecosystem health. Trends Ecol Evol 13:397–402CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  50. Richardson CT, Miller CK (1997) Recommendations for protecting raptors from human disturbance. Wildl Soc Bull 25:634–638Google Scholar
  51. Sangay T, Vernes K (2008) Human–wildlife conflict in the Kingdom of Bhutan: patterns of livestock predation by large mammalian carnivores. Biol Conserv 141:1272–1282CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  52. Saxena KG, Maikhuri RK, Rao KS, Nautiyal S (2010) Nanda Devi Biosphere Reserve, Uttarakhand, India as a Baseline for Further Studies related to the Implementation of Global Change in Mountain Regions (GLOCHAMORE) Research Strategy. Assessment Report. UNESCO, New Delhi.
  53. Schaller GB (1977) Mountain Monarchs: wild sheep and goat of the Himalayas. University of Chicago Press, ChicagoGoogle Scholar
  54. Schickhoff U (2005) The upper timberline in the Himalayas, Hindu Kush and Karakoram: a review of geographical and ecological aspects. In: Broll G, Keplin B (eds) Mountain ecosystems. Springer, Berlin, pp 275–354CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  55. Sekercioglu CH (2002) Effects of forestry practices on vegetation structure and bird community of Kibale National Park, Uganda. Biol Conserv 107:229–240CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  56. Shanker RU, Ganeshaiah KN, Rao MN, Aravind NA (2004) Ecological consequences of forest use: from genes to ecosystem-a case study in the Biligiri Rangaswamy Temple Wildlife Sanctuary, South India. Conserv Soc 2:347–363Google Scholar
  57. Singh G, Rawat GS, Verma D (2010) Comparative study of fuelwood consumption by villagers and seasonal “Dhaba owners” in the tourist affected regions of Garhwal Himalaya, India. Energy Policy 38:1895–1899CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  58. Slauson WL, Cade BS, Richards JD (1991) User’s manual for BLOSSOM statistical software. United States Fish and Wildlife Service, National Ecology Research Center, Fort CollinsGoogle Scholar
  59. Sundriyal RC, Joshi AP, Dhasmana R (1987) Phenology of high altitude plants at Tungnath in the Garhwal Himalaya. Trop Ecol 28:289–299Google Scholar
  60. Timmins RJ, Duckworth JW (2015) Moschus leucogaster. In: The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species 2015: e.T13901A61977764. 2015-2.RLTS.T13901A 61977764.en
  61. Thomas L, Buckland ST, Rexstad EA, Laake JL, Strindberg S, Hedley SL, Bishop JR, Marques TA, Burnham KP (2010) Distance software: design and analysis of distance sampling surveys for estimating population size. J Appl Ecol 47:5–14CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  62. USDA (1997) National range and pasture handbook. United States Department of Agriculture, Natural Resource Conservation Service, Grazing Lands Technology Institute, Washington, DC. 190-vi-NRPHGoogle Scholar
  63. Zar JH (1999) Biostatistical analysis. Pearson Education, TharamaniGoogle Scholar
  64. Zimmerman GM, Goetz H, Mielke WP (1985) Use of an improved statistical method for group comparisons to study effects of prairie fire. Ecol 66:606–611CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  65. Zuur AF, Ieno EN, Walker N, Saveliev AA, Smith GM (2009) Mixed effects models and extensions in ecology with R. Springer, New YorkCrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© International Society for Tropical Ecology 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Habitat EcologyWildlife Institute of IndiaDehradunIndia
  2. 2.Centre for Ecological ScienceIndian Institute of ScienceBangaloreIndia

Personalised recommendations