Climate change has altered species assemblages, shifted forest boundaries, and affected distributions of species. Mountainous organisms are typically sensitive to changes in climate; several studies have documented significant up- and down-slope range shifts associated with recent climate change. Previous studies have shown that in Nepal the distributions of invasive plants have shifted in the last few decades, perhaps due to climate change. However, so far there has been little systematic investigation of climate change impacts on biodiversity in Nepal. Most of the information available is anecdotal or confined to single species. Hence, the extent and magnitude of potential impacts need to be scientifically researched. We will assemble and collect species distribution data and develop local and regional models that predict the joint effects of changes in temperature and precipitation on multiple dimensions of biodiversity.
Crop, weed, pest, pollinator, and decomposer species are all related to agricultural productivity and community resilience. The economy of rural communities in Nepal is strongly dependent on agriculture. As such, the impact of climate change on crops and on pest/invasive species are of vital importance. Climate change is expected to alter the areas that are suitable for cultivated species globally. In areas with strong altitudinal gradients, the distribution of suitable areas for cultivated species have shifted towards higher altitudes. Climate change is also known to increase the suitable areas for invasive species, and means that pests will likely impact local economies at higher altitudes. This project will develop an empirical basis for IPM practices that are resilient to climate change by studying patterns in biodiversity associated with agriculture, such as weeds, pest, pollinators, and decomposers, which are all related to agricultural productivity and community resilience. Our models of the future impact of climate change on crop and pest species, along with capacity building efforts, will provide the strong foundation needed to develop sound long-term IPM practices and adaptation strategies in local communities.
These researchers will be trained to take part in global research networks using media such as international conferences and journals, which in turn builds the capacity of the multiple institutional partners in Nepal. Under our Scholar Training Program (STP), we identified approximately 15 early-career researchers who are interested and able to execute thesis research through innovative approaches, fresh perspectives, and community-based fieldwork and entrepreneurial engagement, leading to about 5 PhD and 10 MS dissertations in science and technology fields, including climate science, ecology and agronomy. By giving young scientists in Nepal the tools necessary to advance as researchers, we will help build both personal and institutional research capacity with those within the system who are best situated to identify appropriate research needs and to disseminate results effectively and with potential to scale up within and beyond Nepal. While research under this project will prioritize biodiversity classes that are important to agriculture in some way, the STP component in particular will also seek to more broadly develop ecological and climate research capacity in Nepal commensurate with its status as a global biodiversity hotspot.
In Nepal there is a growing trend of migration to urban areas due to lack of employment opportunities in villages and rural areas. The primary purpose of the Women's Enterprise Program (WEP) is to promote adaptive new technologies in order to build rural enterprises that enhance the capacity of smallholders and the rural poor, particularly women. For rural communities around our transect, we expect (subject to needs assessment and ongoing monitoring/evaluation) to provide training and microgrants in appropriate IPM-related technologies and entrepreneurship (e.g., integrated soil/water/nutrient/pest management, horticulture, polyculture, human and livestock nutrition, value-added storage, processing and packaging of produce such as fruit, vegetables, dairy). The WEP will also complement training of adults by working with local primary schools to provide lessons in applied ecology, climate change, and basics of environmental science. We will develop and test local-language community education and training materials as audiovisual segments in story format, and mobile phone applications for disseminating farming related information and agro-meteorological advisories to empower adaptation and sustainability.