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Profound field inventory and monitoring of threatened species habitats are cost-prohibitive, if there is little known about the distribution of species. Malaxis muscifera is a habitat specific, threatened medicinal orchid constitute of Astavarga which grows between 2500-3700 m in the alpine region of Himalaya. Its population decline is closely linked to overexploitation from wild and increasing habitat loss. The present communication attempted to assess its availability and potential habitat suitability for in-situ conservation and long-term monitoring in the alpine region of Uttarakhand, Western Himalaya. Intensive field surveys and Rapid Mapping Exercise (RME) technique was used to evaluate species availability in the alpine meadows. MaxEnt computer package was used to predict the potential geographical distribution of the species by incorporating various environmental and physiographic parameters. The results reveal that the potential habitat of M.muscifera is higher in the alpine grassy slopes, meadows and adjacent to tree line. Out of the total vegetated area of 7116km2 area in the alpine region, about 296 km2 area is recorded highly suitable, 659 km2 less suitable and rest is not suitable to the species. Highest density (2.5 individuals/m2) was reported in Panwalikantha and Kunwari pass meadows while lowest density was observed in Martoli (0.6 individuals/m2) area. Land use land cover was the most influential variables which determine its distribution. This approach could be effectively utilized in knowing the potential distribution region, especially the high probability areas and can help in planning the land use management in and around the existing population. Also, it would help in discovering the new populations, identification of priority survey sites and in designing the conservation priority zone/resource management zone with an emphasis on species ecological boundary.
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