Hindu Kush Himalaya faces ecological crisis, urgent action needed, scientists say

The IPBES assessment meeting commenced on Monday in Kathmandu, the first time this key biodiversity summit has been held in South Asia.

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The Hindu Kush Himalaya region stands on the brink of ecological collapse, warn experts gathered in Kathmandu this week. More than 130 scientists and policymakers are meeting to discuss urgent threats to the area's precious biodiversity.

The International Centre for Integrated Mountain Development (ICIMOD), which is hosting the summit, describes the speed and scale of habitat loss across the region as "catastrophic".

Spanning eight countries and 3,500km, the Hindu Kush Himalayas harbor four of the world's 36 biodiversity hotspots. Its fragile ecosystems support over 240 million people, yet 70% of its original wildlife has vanished in just a century.

"It is almost too late," warns ICIMOD's Izabella Koziell. "The declines in nature pose a threat not just to plants and animals, but to human societies."

The Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES) meeting aims to strengthen links between science and policy. Researchers like Sunita Chaudhary stress the need for "urgent investment" in ecosystem restoration. Worldwide, funding is rising to reverse nature loss.

With one in three residents already undernourished, the Hindu Kush Himalayas have become a test case for managing biodiversity, food, water and health in a warming climate.

Failure to act promptly could topple this delicate balance. "These fragile ecosystems could collapse," Chaudhary cautions. For delegates gathered in Kathmandu, the stakes could not be higher.