Biota and Environment of Natural Areas

Borkin L.J., Andreev A.V., Vershinin V.L., Vershinina S.D., Vinarski M.V., Lopatina E.B., Neupokoeva N.I.

An Interdisciplinary Expedition of the St. Petersburg Association of Scientists & Scholars to the Garhwal Himalaya, India (2019): some preliminary results

Year: 2021, Number: 1, Pages: 106-145

In April – May 2019 the Center for Himalayan Research, the St. Petersburg Association of Scientists & Scholars organized an interdisciplinary expedition to the Garhwal Himalaya, north-western India. 16 participants traveled across the western part of the Garhwal Division, Uttarakhand. They visited the environs of Mussoorie and a forest hill with Surkanda Devi Temple near Dhanaulti. Some interesting plants and animals were observed, including scorpions, lizards (ground skinks), birds and mammals. Later, our path went up along the Yamuna River to small town Purola. Within the Jaunsar-Bawar region, trips were made along the Tons River, with a short visit to the Govind Pashu Vihar National Park. From Purola we moved up to the Yamuna River with a hike to famous Yamunotri Temple near a glacier. Then, after crossing a ridge the team rode up along the Bhagirathi River. At the Dharali the participants trekked through a dense deodar forest up to the Seven Lakes area where they observed various plants and animals including ground skinks (Asymblepharus), small agamid lizards (Japalura) and the Himalayan pit viper (Gloydius himalayanus). Our final destination was the town Gangotri from where the team members made the trek to Gomukh, terminus of the Gangotri glacier, a sacral source of the Ganges. Various reptiles, birds and mammals were met in the Gangotri National Park. Next days, we went down along the Bhagirathi River, with a short visit to the lake Nachiketa Tal. A new species of ants (genus Temnothorax, Formicidae) was found. Then, we passed the Tehri reservoir and finally reached Rishikesh. Field observations in various branches of zoology (malacology, entomology, herpetology, ornithology), botany, biogeography, social geography and science history were conducted. Some comments on altitudinal vegetation zonation are made. Mass occurrence of malformed amphibians (tadpoles of the toad genus Duttaphrynus) was recorded for the first time in the Himalaya.

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