Research in Ladakh,India

                                Institute of Botany ASCR                                                                  česky         



    The westernmost spur of the Tibetan Plateau, belonging already to Ladakh in India, is a biogeographically unique area, which makes the transition zone between the wet outer  Himalayas and the cold regions of inner Tibet.

Our main research activities are carried out in the surroundings of Tso Moriri lake in a region called Little Tibet in Eastern Ladakh.
Photo Z. Chlumská

    Activities od Czech scientists in this part of Transhimalaya started in 1989 with an expedition of Czech Academy of Sciences. One of the participants, a botanist Leoš Klimeš, then decided for a systematic exploration of this little-known region and visited Ladakh regularly since 1997. His main goal was a thorough mapping of vascular flora and preparation of a modern and complete Flora of Ladakh. He was also interested in ecological issues such as clonality in plants and conducted several experiments (more here). However, after his unexplained disappearence somewhere in the midst of the remote and wild part of Zanskar most of his work remained unfinished.

    Since 2008, the research activities go on under the leadership of Jiří Doležal from the Institute of Botany in Třeboň. Main areas of research include monitoring of vegetation changes, nutrient economy in plants, relationship between vascular plants and soil microbial communities and other ecological topics concerning extreme altitudes (more here).

A large glacier on the northern slopes of Lungser Kangri (6700 m) in Eastern Ladakh.
Photo M. Dvorský

Study region

    Ladakh, for long centuries an independent Buddhist kingdom, has now been a part of the Republic of India, state Jammu & Kashmir. It covers an area of nearly 87,000 km2 and most of it is situated above 3000 m (10,000 feet). From the north it is delimited by Eastern Karakorum Range, from the south by the Great Himalaya Range and from the east by the Tibetan Plateau. Ladakh lies in a pronounced rain shadow of the Himalayas, so that the local climate is remarkably arid, with total annual precipitations below 100 mm. In winters, temperatures can drop as low as -30 °C (-22 °F). That is why the most characteristic vegetation types are semideserts and steppes. Moreover, due to specific conditions in its eastern part vascular plants can be found in one of the highest elevations in the world here.

High-altitude plateau in Little Tibet lies between 5600-6000 m. The sparse subnival vegetation consists of about 25 species.
Photo M. Dvorský


    From phytogeographical point of view, the flora of Ladakh belongs to Holarctic, with a negligible portion of Paleotropical elements. With the exception of exclusively woody taxa, practically all important families are represented here. Most species are Central Asian elements, while moving east the proportion of typical Tibetan floroelements increases. According to the latest estimates, the local flora consists of 1250-1500 species and subspecies (see here). Several new species were discovered here and described for science thanks to L. Klimeš.

Alyssum klimesii Al-Shehbaz (Brassicaceae). A species from extreme altitudes, discovered by L. Klimeš and named in his honour.
Photo M. Dvorský

Grant support

    Research in Ladakh has been financially supported by grant GAAV IAA600050802 "Upward migration of sub-nival plants in E Ladakh: the role of plant traits and interactions under climate warming", main investigator Jiří Doležal.

                   (created by M. Dvorský)