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From Buffer Zone to National Park: Afghanistan’s Wakhan National Park

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Abstract

On March 30th, 2014, Afghanistan declared the Wakhan Corridor as its second national park. At over 10,000 km², the park is larger than Yellowstone National Park in the USA. It is high country, ranging from 2500 meters at its west end, to a mountain pass to China at 5000 meters in the east, and peaks of 7000 meters along its southern border. Despite its elevation, the Wakhan National Park is home to iconic wildlife species such as Marco Polo sheep and the snow leopards. It is also home to some 17,000 people. The Wakhan has had a long journey from geopolitical buffer zone to national park, a journey that is not yet complete. It became defined as a specific region during The Great Game of the nineteenth century between the two great empires of the age: Tsarist Russia, and the British Raj in India. The great powers wanted a buffer zone between them, an effort to keep their competition from accidentally spilling over into war. Neither the British, the Russians, nor the Afghan Emir could have known that in the twenty-first century, this buffer zone would come to be valued for its natural capital. While there were ceremonies to declare the park in 2014, it is not yet clear how the park will be managed. The park faces many challenges, but has great potential to preserve rare mountain habitats for the people who live there, and the world beyond its borders.

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... However, only a limited number of studies tested the potential of respective variables for both classification and modeling. In order to contribute to this high priority research topic, we examine following research questions in a remote, high elevation, cold rangeland area of Central Asia with still limited human footprint (Smallwood and Shank 2019) and with continental relevance as a "water tower of Asia" (Viviroli et al., 2007): What is the importance of adapted remote sensing based indices and snow variables in modeling vegetation classes and vegetation cover in cold grasslands? What are central issues for remote sensing based analysis in these regions? ...
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