Nanda Devi Biosphere Reserve

Country/territory: India

IBA Criteria met: A1, A2 (2004)
For more information about IBA criteria please click here

Area: 62,462 ha

Bombay Natural History Society
Most recent IBA monitoring assessment
Year of assessment Threat score (pressure) Condition score (state) Action score (response)
2003 high not assessed not assessed
For more information about IBA monitoring please click here

Site description
The Nanda Devi Biosphere Reserve is situated in the Kumaon and Garhwal regions of Western Himalayas, in the districts of Chamoli, Pithoragarh and Almora. It covers an area of 586,069 ha, with two core zones, the Nanda Devi National Park (62,462 ha) and Valley of Flowers National Park (8800 ha), and an outer buffer zone of 514,857 ha. Here we consider only the Nanda Devi NP as an IBA. The Valley of Flowers NP has been considered as a separate IBA. The Sanctuary is one of the most spectacular wilderness areas in the Himalayas. Nanda Devi (7,817 m), a natural monument, and India’s second highest peak, stands high above the basin of the Rishi Ganga river, which has cut for itself one of the finest gorges in the world. Unlike many other Himalayan areas, it is largely free from human settlement and has remained unspoiled due to its inaccessibility, particularly the forests of the lower Rishi Valley. Nanda Devi National Park meets Criteria (iii) and (iv) of the World Heritage Convention, based on its exceptional natural beauty and populations of rare and threatened mammals (IUCN Technical Evaluation). Access to Nanda Devi National Park is very difficult, due to a series of high ridges with peaks such as Lata, Jhandidhar, Dunagiri, Kalanka, Rishiparvat, Nanda Devi East, Nanda Khata and Trishul, which also form the boundary of the core zone. Thus, not only is Nanda Devi protected by law, but its geographic features act as an effective obstacle to human and livestock entry.

Key biodiversity

AVIFAUNA: A total of 112 bird species has been recorded from Nanda Devi, 83 within the Biosphere Reserve and 29 around Joshimath and the oak forest at Auli (Sankaran 1995). Sankaran (1995) found that species richness was highest in temperate forests with 47 species (37%), 24 of which were seen only in this habitat dominated by oak, fir, birch and rhododendron. The species richness of this habitat is likely to be much higher, as this was the least surveyed of all habitat types. Sub-alpine forest ranked next in species richness with 43 species recorded by Sankaran (1995), 18 of which were seen only in this habitat type. Nine species (8%), from a total of 32 recorded, were exclusive to the alpine pastures. Only 20 species (8 exclusively) were recorded in degraded forest and agricultural land. This indicates that the majority of species found in this Park are specialists requiring primary forest cover (Sankaran 1995). Almost all species of avifauna in the Himalaya show altitudinal migration, ascending to subalpine and alpine areas in summer to breed, and descending to temperate and tropical areas in the winter. Three species of pheasants are reported from this Park: Cheer Pheasant Catreus wallichii, Himalayan Monal Lophophorus impejanus and Koklass Pheasant Pucrasia macrolopha. While the former is globally threatened, and considered Vulnerable by BirdLife International (2001), the latter two are still common in the Western Himalayas. Other Galliformes include Snow Partridge Lerwa lerwa and Himalayan Snowcock Tetraogallus himalayensis (Sankaran 1995). Sankaran (1995) did not find Cheer Pheasant during his survey of the higher reaches of Nanda Devi, but it is reported from slopes near Reni village. Nanda Devi NP lies in the Western Himalayas (Endemic Bird Area 128) (Stattersfield et al. 1998). In this EBA, a suit of 11 species has been listed, of which only two species could be found here. However, as Sankaran (1995) has pointed out, further studies are required to provide a comprehensive bird list for this interesting site. This site has been designated an IBA on the basis of A1 and A2 criteria, but it could qualify under A3 (biome-restricted assemblage) also.

OTHER KEY FAUNA: The most important mammal is the Snow Leopard Uncia uncia, which occurs in the alpine and subalpine zones. Its main natural prey is Blue Sheep Pseudois nayaur, Musk Deer Moschus chrysogarter and Himalayan Tahr Hemitragus jemlahicus. Tak and Kumar (1987) and Sathyakumar (1993) have described general wildlife, especially mammals.

Key contributors: Dhananjay Mohan, Rashid S. Raza and S. Sathyakumar.

Recommended citation
BirdLife International (2022) Important Bird Areas factsheet: Nanda Devi Biosphere Reserve. Downloaded from on 10/12/2022.