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Ladakh lies on an important bird migratory route between the Palearctic and the Indian sub-continent, and the high altitude migratory species utilise Ladakh frequently as a stopover site. The trans-Himalayan landscape in Ladakh also serves as a breeding site for many water birds species including the globally threatened Black-necked Crane Grus nigricollis. Yet, only sporadic information is available on the status and diversity of waterbirds here. In a landscape-level assessment study spanning over 27,000km2 area, we surveyed 11 major high-altitude wetlands of Changthang Wildlife Sanctuary, Ladakh during the pre-winter season of the year 2013. We recorded a total of 38 waterbird species belonging to 10 families, including one species in Vulnerable and two species in Near Threatened categories of IUCN Red List. We calculated species diversity and richness indices to compare the wetlands. Statapuk Tso and Tsokar were the most diverse wetlands of the sanctuary (Shannon diversity 2.38 and 2.08, respectively). We used principal component analysis to find out the wetlands with unique species assemblage and identify the sites with high conservation value. We also observed a directional pattern of diversity among the wetlands of Ladakh. We provide a reminder that wildlife even in protected areas should be surveyed regularly with the sources of threats to their conservation documented carefully.
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