Alpine/Tundra

About This Region

16% of Afghanistan is Tundra. Tundra is the area which is above the tree line on mountains and is very cold and usually has snow. In Afghanistan, the snow makes up almost 90% of precipitation in the Tundra region. Many different species of plants and animals live in the Tundra. These include the endangered Marco Polo sheep and snow leopard and also the Sea Buckthorn plant. These plants and animals have developed specific adaptations in order to survive in this harsh enviornment.
Some specific regions of the Afghanistan Tundra include: Hindu Kush alpine meadow, Karakoram-West Tibetian Plateau alpine steppe, Pamir alpine desert and tundra and Ghorat- Hazariar alpine meadow.

Hindu Kush

The Hindu Kush alpine meadow is located in northeast Afghanistan. It is home to endemic plants which have developed the ability to live in glacier melt. There are Birch forests too. Animals which inhabit the region include bears, leopards, ibex and snow cocks. However, this unique ecosystem is threatened by a highway which runs through the mountains.
The Karakoram-West Tibetan Plateau alpine steppe

The Karakoram-West Tibetan Plateau alpine steppe is west of the Himalayas and is about the size of Illinois, (55,300 square miles). This area may be the most important Tundra region in Afghanistan because it is home to two very endangered species, the Marco Polo Sheep and the Snow Leopard. Hunting of the Marco Polo sheep is still a sport, despite the rapidly decreasing population. There are only an estimated 4,500-5,000 snow leopards left in the wild and without stopping the destruction of its wooded habitat and poaching for use of their bones in medicine they are likely to become extinct. The native animals of this region are being threatened not only by the people living there but also by their animals. Cattle grazing has put extra pressure on the native species for food recourses.

The Pamir alpine desert and tundra
The Pamir alpine desert and tundra is located at the intersection of the Himalaya, the Karakoram, the Hindu Kush and the Tian Shan and is about the size of Pennsylvania, (45,600 square miles). The conditions are very harsh due to the combination of harsh winds, drought, cold and sun. Prickly cushion plants are common at the lower elevations.

Ghorat-Hazaraiar alpine meadow

The Ghorat-Hazaraiar alpine meadow is one of the most diverse regions in Afghanistan. Many kinds of animals live there such as the Himalayan ibex, grey wolves, foxes, Afghan pikas, and long-tailed marmots. Also, the Siberian crane migrates through this area in order to get to India for the winter. There are several types of plants such as the sea buckthorn and the willow tree. The plants again have to be hardy in order to survive in the climate. The ethnic group, Hazarajat also inhabits the region. While they live on land which is said to contain many varieties of precious stones, they are considered to be one of the poorest and most powerless groups in Afghanistan.