High altitude biodiversity of the Alps and the Himalayas: ethnobotany, plant distribution and conservation perspective


Historical evidences suggest that the Himalayas have some strong biogeographical links to the Alps. In view of this fact, the present study aims to understand the similarities in plant species distribution and their ethnobotanical uses in the Indian Himalayas and the Slovenian Alps. The plant species common in both the mountain systems and used by local inhabitants were compiled by extensive literature search and also by carrying out primary surveys. Ethnobotanical information was collected through personal interviews of villagers with the help of local assistants and also through direct and indirect observations made during the field surveys. A total of 59 ethnobotanical species representing 17 families common in both the Indian Himalayas and the Slovenian Alps were documented, of these 78% obtained medicinal properties and traditionally used by local people for curing diseases. Comparatively, people of the Indian Himalayas used plants for medicine in higher percentage (73%) than the people of Slovenia (42%). Of the total medicinal plants, only 7 plant species such as Acorus calamus, Capsella bursa-partoris, Hypericum perforatum, Origanum vulgare, Prunella vulgaris, Solanum nigrum and Urtica dioica had some common uses in both the Slovenian Alps and the Indian Himalayas. In the Slovenian Alps, the maximum ethnobotanical species (61%) had wide distribution range whereas maximum ethnobotanical species in the Indian Himalayas (62%) had localized distribution. Though, 27% of common ethnobotanical species belonged to different threat categories, only 2 species—Taxus baccata and Hippophae rhamnoides—are placed under similar threat category in these two different mountain areas. The study unfolds relationship in plant species distribution and their ethnobotanical uses along with offering an opportunity to provide information on uses of plant species though available but unknown to community.

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The authors thank the Indian Institute of Forest Management, India and the University of Ljubljana, Slovenia for providing support.

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Correspondence to Chandra Prakash Kala.

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Kala, C.P., Ratajc, P. High altitude biodiversity of the Alps and the Himalayas: ethnobotany, plant distribution and conservation perspective. Biodivers Conserv 21, 1115–1126 (2012). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10531-012-0246-x

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  • Ethnobotany
  • Plant distribution patterns
  • Conservation
  • Slovenian Alps
  • Indian Himalayas
  • Traditional knowledge
  • Threatened species