Avifauna of the Gaoligong Shan Mountains of Western China: A Hotspot of Avian Species Diversity
Asia, Hengduan Shan, Himalaya, survey, Yunnan
Abstract.—The Gaoligong Shan Mountains (GLGS) of southwestern Yunnan, China, which form the southeastern extent of the Himalaya Mountains, are a narrow range running north– south, rising over 4,000 m in the north and receding into the lowlands in the south. The range is defined by the Irrawaddy lowlands to the west and by the Nujiang (also known as the Salween River) to the east. We summarize results of five recent ornithological expeditions that surveyed altitudinal transects in the southern and northern GLGS. The GLGS are a designated UNESCO World Heritage Site and are considered a “hotspot” by multiple conservation organizations. We used bird distributions to examine the hotspot status of the GLGS, and we discuss the value of the local species diversity for conservation. We found that the GLGS have tremendous avian diversity for a temperate region, with at least 486 documented avian taxa in the region. However, there is relatively little endemism in the GLGS per se, and ~50% of GLGS breeding bird species are near the edge of their range. Our data do not suggest that the GLGS are a major evolutionary center for birds; however, the larger eastern Himalaya region (of which the GLGS are a part), does appear to be a center of endemism and evolution. The GLGS may have been—and are likely to remain—an important and precious refuge for the preservation of Asian montane forest birds.