Tso Morari Lake India

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Tso Morari Lake in Kashmir

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Location: Leh, in eastern Ladakh, Jammu & Kashmir
Area: Tso Morari 12000 ha; adjacent marshes 1000 ha.
Altitude: 4511 m
Biogeographical province: 2.38.12
Wetland type: 12, 15, 16

Description of site: Tso Morari is the largest (length 30 km; average width 9 km) of the high altitude trans-Himalayan lakes situated entirely within Indian territory. The waters are alkaline. The lake formerly had an outlet to the south, but it has contracted considerably and has become land locked; as a result, the water is now brackish to saline. The lake is fed by springs and snow-melt in two major stream systems, one entering the lake from the north, the other from the southwest. Both stream systems create extensive marshes where they enter the lake. The lake has a maximum depth of 40 m, and is frozen over from October to March. Small islands near the north and south ends are important for breeding waterfowl. The lake basin is bounded to the north and east by cold desert, and to the south and west by mountain ranges with peaks exceeding 5500 m. A village, Korzok, inhabited by semi-nomadic tribes, is situated in a corner. Recently, a road has been constructed up to the lake

Climatic conditions: Arid Tibetan climate, characterised by marked differences between sun and shade and night and day temperatures. Humidity is low, and there is very little precipitation in the form of rain or snow within the basin (average annual precipitation about 75 mm). Summers are very short, and winters prolonged and cold. Summer temperatures range from 0 - 30°C, winter temperatures from -10°C to as low as - 40°C

Principal vegetation: There does not appear to be any vegetation in the deeper parts of the lake, but the shallower areas have some Potamogeton sp. Various species of sedge and rush grow in the marshes, notably Carex sp. Species of Caragana and Astragalus are typical of the surrounding and steppe vegetation

Land tenure: The lake is state-owned (Government of Jammu & Kashmir); surrounding areas are largely state-owned

Conservation measures taken: The lake has been afforded some protection, and shooting of wildlife is strictly prohibited

Conservation measures proposed: The lake lies within the boundaries of the proposed High Altitude Cold Desert National Park (400,000 ha) in eastern Ladakh

Land use: The marshes and meadows are grazed by domestic livestock, mainly yaks. A small portion on the periphery is used by the Korzok villagers for agriculture

Disturbances and threats: The construction of a road right up to the lake has opened up this once remote basin for tourism and economic activities. The increased human activity is likely to affect the breeding waterfowl population. There are no threats foreseen in the immediate future, although the number of grazing yaks has already reached a very high level

Economic and social values: The wetland provides rich pastures for domestic livestock. A Buddhist monastery in a nearby village is reputed to be one of the highest permanent settlements in the world. The area has been opened to foreign tourists recently Fauna: Tso Morari is thought to be the most important breeding locality for waterfowl in Ladakh. The lake has the largest breeding colony of bar-headed geese (Anser indicus) in Indian territory, and supports significant breeding populations of great crested grebe, brahminy duck, ruddy shelduck, lesser sand plover, brown-headed gull, and common tern. One pair of black-necked cranes (Grus nigricollis) nests in the marshes along the southern edge of the lake, and a pair of black-necked grebes (Podiceps nigricollis )were found nesting in 1978. An estimated 200 pairs of Anser indicus were found breeding in 1978 in two colonies, one at Karzak Gompa and the other in the marshes at the south end of the lake. Flocks of Tibetan sand grouse (Syrrhaptes tibetanus) come to drink at streams in the adjacent meadows, and wild ass (Equus hemionus) forage on the surrounding plains

Special floral values: No information

Research and facilities: Some studies have been made on the breeding birds.

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