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Accelerated climate change and its potential impact on yak herding livelihoods in the eastern Tibetan Plateau in the Asian Highlands

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The Tibetan Plateau has experienced rapid warming like most other alpine regions. Regional assessments show rates of warming comparable with the arctic region and decreasing Asian summer monsoons. We used meteorological station daily precipitation and daily maximum and minimum temperature data from 80 stations in the eastern Tibetan Plateau of southwest China to calculate local variation in the rates and seasonality of change over the last half century (1960-2008). Daily low temperatures during the growing season have increased greatly over the last 24 years (1984-2008). In sites of markedly increased warming (e.g., Deqin, Yunnan and Mangya, Qinghai), daily and growing season daily high temperatures have increased at a rate above 5 A degrees C/100 years. In Deqin, precipitation prior to the 1980s fell as snow whereas in recent decades it has shifted to rain during March and April. These shifts to early spring rains are likely to affect plant communities. Animals like yaks adapted to cold climates are also expected to show impacts with these rising temperatures. This region deserves further investigation to determine how these shifts in climate are affecting local biodiversity and livelihoods.
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Climatic Change
An Interdisciplinary, International
Journal Devoted to the Description,
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Change
ISSN 0165-0009
Climatic Change
DOI 10.1007/s10584-013-1043-6
Accelerated climate change and its
potential impact on Yak herding livelihoods
in the eastern Tibetan plateau
Michelle A.Haynes, King-Jau Samuel
Kung, Jodi S.Brandt, Yang Yongping &
Donald M.Waller
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Accelerated climate change and its potential impact on Yak
herding livelihoods in the eastern Tibetan plateau
Michelle A. Haynes &King-Jau Samuel Kung &
Jodi S. Brandt &Yang Yongping &Donald M. Waller
Received: 25 November 2012 / Accepted: 19 December 2013
#Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2014
Abstract The Tibetan Plateau has experienced rapid warming like most other alpine regions.
Regional assessments show rates of warming comparable with the arctic region and decreasing
Asian summer monsoons. We used meteorological station daily precipitation and daily maximum
and minimum temperature data from 80 stations in the eastern Tibetan Plateau of southwest China
to calculate local variation in the rates and seasonality of change over the last half century (1960
2008). Daily low temperatures during the growing season have increased greatly over the last 24
years (19842008). In sites of markedly increased warming (e.g., Deqin, Yunnan and Mangya,
Qinghai), daily and growing season daily high temperatures have increased at a rate above 5 °C/
100 years. In Deqin, precipitation prior to the 1980s fell as snow whereas in recent decades it has
shifted to rain during March and April. These shifts to early spring rains are likely to affect plant
communities. Animals like yaks adapted to cold climates are also expected to show impacts with
these rising temperatures. This region deserves further investigation to determine how these shifts
in climate are affecting local biodiversity and livelihoods.
Climatic Change
DOI 10.1007/s10584-013-1043-6
Electronic supplementar y material The online version of this article (doi:10.1007/s10584-013-1043-6)
contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.
M. A. Haynes (*):D. M. Waller
Department of Botany, University of Wisconsin-Madison, 430 Lincoln Avenue, Madison, WI 53706, USA
e-mail: michelleahaynes@gmail.com
K.<J. S. Kung
Department of Soil Science, University of Wisconsin-Madison, 1525 Observatory Drive, Madison, WI
53706, USA
J. S. Brandt
Department of Forest and Wildlife Ecology, University of Wisconsin-Madison, 1630 Linden Drive,
Madison, WI 53706, USA
Y. Yongping
Institute of Tibetan Plateau Research, Chinese Academy of Sciences, Shuangqing Str. 18, Beijing 100085,
China
Present Address:
M. A. Haynes
U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Institute for Water Resources, 7701 Telegraph Road, Alexandria, VA 22315,
USA
Author's personal copy
1 Introduction
The collision of the Indian plate with the Eurasian plate over 10 million years ago created the
Tibetan Plateau and the eastern Himalayas. The eastern Tibetan Plateau extends eastward into
the Hengduan Mountains, famous as an international biodiversity hotspot and the site of the
Three Parallel Rivers UNESCO World Heritage site (Mittermeier et al. 1999). At least 16
ethnic groups reside within this hotspot (Xu & Wilkes 2002). Rivers originated from the
eastern Tibetan Plateau extend east through mainland China and south into southeast Asia,
providing water for approximately two billion people (Yunnan 2003).
The Eastern Tibetan Plateau is an ideal location to examine the interactions among
geographic complexity, climatic history, and areas of unique biological and cultural signifi-
cance (Haynes et al. 2013).
The climate of the Eastern Tibetan Plateau is driven by the Indian Ocean southwestern
monsoon and the Pacific Ocean southeastern monsoon (CEPF 2002). Recent decades have shown
a weakening of the monsoon effect and a slight release from its seasonal distribution of rain,
including greater variation in extreme rain events (Li et al. 2012). Studies have also shown
significant warming across the Tibetan Plateau (Li et al. 2010;Xuetal.2008;Yuetal.2010)as
well as increases in precipitation (Li et al. 2012;Qinetal.2006;Qinetal.2010;Zhaoetal.2010).
These trends of climatic changes alter ecosystem functions with cascading affects and feedbacks
on the rich biodiversity and livelihoods in the region (Xu & Wilkes 2002;Lietal.2010;Xuetal.
2009). Climate change causes grassland systems to change, with resulting decrease in species
richness (Klein et al. 2007), increasing shrub encroachment (Brandt et al. 2013), and reducing the
outputs of yak (Bos grunniens) husbandry (Haynes 2011; Miller 1999;Weineretal.2003).
In this study, we examine local patterns of change in climate across the eastern Tibetan
Plateau over the past 48 years (19602008). We focus on detecting and characterizing changes
not only in mean climate parameters but also local daily temperature minima and maxima as
well as the seasonality of temperature and precipitation. Our goal is to assess the increase in the
rates of climatic change across the region. Any sites identified with particularly dramatic
increases in rates of temperature change within the Tibetan Plateau may be useful for assessing
impacts of climatic change on alpine vegetation and yak husbandry. Such locations are logical
locations for further study to assess whether biological thresholds are being exceeded.
2Methods
2.1 Meteorology data
We accessed daily high temperature, daily low temperature, and precipitation data for 100
meteorology stations on the eastern Tibetan Plateau region. These stations are maintained by
the National Meteorological Administration of China and undergo quality control prior to
release (Qin et al. 2010). We conducted preliminary analyses to determine the range of dates
included, consistency of records, and number and type of gaps in the station data. Because
some of the stations began recording data prior to others, we selected 1960 as the starting year
for our analyses (the earliest year for which we had data from all selected stations). The few
stations located outside the study region were excluded as were stations with large gaps in their
records. To guard against overestimates, we also removed three stations from the results that
showed inordinate rates of warming (for example, 22 °C/100 year for daily high temperature).
Such rates appear improbable and could be misleading. In the end, 80 stations were included in
our analyses from 1960 to 2008, covering about 756,000 km
2
(Fig. 1).
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2.2 Analyses - cumulative change
Annual cycles and certain anomalies can be observed using unmodified temperature data.
However, to detect and quantify the scope and amount of temperature and precipitation
anomalies, we used the cumulative method (Lozowski et al. 1989). Random fluctuations in
climate lead to no net effect on cumulative climate statistics, but any consistent trend will cause
summed climate variables to accumulate positive or negative trends over time (Hasanean &
Basset 2006;Lozowskietal.1989; Maechel et al. 1998). This cumulative method sums the
variable across the desired range of time and uses this curve to calculate the second derivative
providing an estimate of the rate of change (Figs. 2a,S1). In contrast to slope calculations, the
curvature method for calculating rates of change reduces error, especially with smaller rates of
change (Figs. 2b,S1). It does so by effectively filtering the noise while retaining the signal.
Preliminary time series analyses of the dataset revealed that the rate of temperature increase
was not linear, with the rate of temperature increase during the recent decades much faster than
that during the early decades. Global climate showed a cooling pattern in the 19601970s
Fig. 1 Map of meteorology stations in the eastern Tibetan Plateau used in our analyses. Provincial and
international boundaries shown, as well as the major rivers originating on the Tibetan Plateau. Deqin, one of
the sites in northwest Yunnan, is designated with a square
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(IPCC 2007). Our data confirms this effect at most stations. Since we were interested in
assessing how the rate of temperature change has increased over recent decades, we chose to
compare the 48- year rates of change with the 24- year rates of change. All calculations are
presented in °C/100 year rates in order to standardize and enable comparison to other studies.
We calculated mean daily low and mean daily high temperatures from 1960 to 2008 for all
stations to show the variation represented across the region sampled. Next we calculated 24-
and 48- year rates of change for precipitation, annual daily low, annual daily high, growing
season daily low, growing season daily high, winter daily low, and winter daily high. We
defined growing season as months which the monthly mean daily high 5 °C (in NE Qinghai
Fig. 2 Comparison of linear slope vs. cumulative curvature methods. aA sine-wave daily temperature pattern
was generated with 15 °C mean temp, 20 °C seasonal amplitude, 5 degrees daily random fluctuation,
superimposed with a 2×10
4
degree per day linear slope (7.3 °C per 100 years) to simulate a temperature
increase induced by climate change. The linear regression of the sine-wave temperature pattern with R
2
value is
shown at the top.Thediagonal thick line is the cumulative daily temperature (with a best fit second power
polynomial shown at the bottom). The first derivative (i.e., the coefficient of the x term of the linear regression) is
the slope of the linear slope method. The second derivative (i.e., two times the coefficient of the x
2
term of the
polynomial fit) is the calculated slope of the curvature method. bBecause the superimposed slope is known, the
error of each method can be calculated. We generated 50,000 sets of 25-year daily random temperature
fluctuations to compare the averaged errors of the two methods. The comparison is repeated while the rates of
temperature increase per 25 years change from 1 to 10°
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we used 0 °C, because no monthly mean 5 °C), and winter as NovemberMarch, inclusive.
To graphically depict the rates of change across stations, we constructed circle maps using
ArcGIS 9.3.
2.3 Analyses - biological thresholds
To explore some of the effects of rapid shifts in temperature on thresholds relevant to alpine
meadows, important sources of medicinal plants and vital for Tibetan yak herding livelihoods
in northwest Yunnan (Haynes & Yang 2013), we investigated when the freezing threshold
occurs to determine if it has changed between 1960 and 2008. We used temperature data at the
Deqin County station (3,320 m), and data from 13 other stations ranging from 1,646 to
4,292 m within Deqin County based on at least 20-year means (Leanwangdui 2001).
We calculated the linear lapse rate adjustment for each month (Dodson and Marks 1997)as
this technique does not require interpolation, often inaccurate for the Himalayas (Leemans &
Cramer 1991;Rolland2003), and provides greater detail than the global mean lapse rate of -
6.5 °C km1 (Barry & Chorley 1987). Average daily low and high temperatures at Deqin
climate station were then used to calculate low and high temperatures for February through
June at 4,000 and 4,400 m using the lapse rate adjustments. We noted when the average low
temperatures shifted from below-freezing to above-freezing temperatures, plotted against
elevation. To see if temperature changes were accompanied by changes in precipitation type,
we also plotted annual rainfall, snowfall, and total precipitation from 1960 to 2008 for each
month from February through June.
We also investigated whether temperature changes have reached thresholds directly relevant
to yak physiology, since yak husbandry is the dominate livelihood across most of the Tibetan
Plateau region (Haynes & Yang 2013). The yak has adapted to withstand cold temperatures but
experiences rising respiration rates at only 13 °C (Weiner et al. 2003). At 16 °C its heart rate
and body temperature start to rise, and at 20 °C it stops moving, grazing, drinking or
ruminating. Therefore, we counted the number of days per month in winter that were above
13 °C, 16 °C, and 20 °C to see if the number of times that these thresholds have been exceeded
has increased between 1960 and 2008 and reported the results for 16 °C. We focused on the
winter months when using the direct historical data, since livestock are herded at the lower
elevations in winter, closer to the meteorology stations in those areas. We also used the lapse
rate adjustments calculated for Deqin county and our DEM to determine average daily high
temperatures for May and June at all elevations in the alpine zone (>3,800 m), comparing the
decadal average from 1958 to 1968 with 19992008. Linear lapse rates fit within global
estimates and followed the expected trend from months of lower moisture to higher moisture
(Barry & Chorley 1987; Dodson & Marks 1997; Rolland 2003) (February, -6.65 °C km1;
March, -6.35 °C km1; April, -6.25 °C km1; May, -5.91 °C km1; June, -5.59 °C km1, all
r
2
>0.97). We also searched the literature and interviewed key informants in the study region
for news of yak mortality, particularly in February and March when yaks may already be
weakened by inadequate diet during the winter.
3Results
Temperatures from these 80 stations in the eastern Tibetan Plateau region reported mean
annual daily lows between -11.4 and 15.3 °C (Fig. 3a), and mean annual daily highs of 2.4 °C
to 23.3 °C (Fig. 3b). Over the past 48 years, overall rates of change in temperature varied
between -1.6 and 5.3 °C/100year. These results are consistent with those reported (Li et al.
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2010; Qin et al. 2010;Xuetal.2008). More recently, however, these rates have greatly
accelerated at many sites. Comparing 24- and 48-year rates of change showed much higher
recent rates at most stations for most categories of change. Changes in growing season daily
high temperatures were particularly dramatic with ratios of rates of increase over the past 24
years to overall rates of increase over 48 years ranging up to >20 (Fig. 4).
Taken as a whole, daily low temperatures have increased more than daily high temperatures
(Fig. 5) as already reported (Li et al. 2010; Qin et al. 2010;Xuetal.2008;Yuetal.2010).
Fig. 3 Map of a average daily low and b average da ily high temperatures across stations
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There are, however, sites that show a different pattern. The change in daily high temperature in
Deqin, Yunnan over the past 24 years was 7.24 °C/100 years. The rate of change in daily low
temperatures over the same period was much less (1.38 °C/100 years). For daily high
temperatures over the past 24 years, 11 stations reported >4.0 °C/100 year rates of change
and 43 reported >3.0 °C/100 years (Fig. 5c).
Growing season daily lows in the region have increased more than growing season daily
highs over the last 24 years, both in terms of the number of stations reporting this pattern and
the reported levels of recent change (Fig. 6). These rates of change for growing season daily
low temperatures exceeded >3.0 °C/100 years at 35 stations, 4.0 °C at 21 stations, 5.0 °C at
eight stations, and 6.0 °C at two. Increases in growing season daily high temperatures over the
past 24 years exceeded 3.0 °C at 30 stations and 4.0 °C at 12 (Fig. 6c). Mangya, Qinghai
showed >4.7 °C/100 year rates of change in every category measured, demonstrating a
warming trend that began before 1980 at that location.
Precipitation rates varied in complex ways across the region reflecting the complex
topography and interactions with changing temperatures and the monsoons. As these changes
have already been described in detail (Qin et al. 2010;Zhaoetal.2010), we present just one
figure of these marked changes for Deqin, Yunnan (Fig. 7). Since the mid-1980s, the amount
of precipitation from FebruaryApril has not changed significantly here but the type of
precipitation has switched. An area that previously experienced snow between February to
April now instead experiences only rain.
Many stations also experienced a marked increase in the number of days over critical
temperature thresholds in the winter months (Table 1). We expect these increases affect yak
health and survival. Our literature search revealed a scarcity of publications focusing on cases
and counts of local yak mortality, probably due to the difficulty in obtaining this level of data.
While warming above the freezing threshold can cause a shift in precipitation type from snow
to rain, warmer than usual winters can also contribute to heavy snowfall events. Interviews of
Fig. 4 Rate of temperature increase comparison showing 48-year rates and 24- year rates of change in growing
season daily high temperatures
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yak herders and county agency staff did confirm large herd die-offs had occurred in some
areas, typically in February and March, attributing the deaths to heavy snowfall causing
starvation in weakened animals and/or increases in parasites. Comparing the elevation where
average May and June temperatures crossed 13 °C, 16 °C, and 20 °C thresholds in 19581968
with 19992008 shows dramatic increases in spatial area experiencing temperatures that
negatively affect yak physiology and performance have occurred (Fig. 8). During the month
of June, the area underneath the 13 °C threshold for yak performance diminished from 24 % to
8 % of the landscape over fifty years.
4Discussion
The cumulative method for analyzing historical climate data (Lozowski et al. 1989) can reduce
noise and improve clarity for assessing anomalies to provide greater sensitivity for assessing
trends of climate change (S1). Our results confirm the warming pattern documented in other
assessments of the region (Fan et al. 2009; Qin et al. 2010;Yuetal.2010) and highlight sites
with increasing rates of change within the region. We do not believe that stations reporting
high rates of change reflect an urban heat island effect (Li et al. 2010). Such effects should be
manifest throughout the year. Even stations with the highest rates of change for certain
Fig. 5 Map of average daily low a 24- and b48-year and average daily high c 24- and d48-year rates of
change across stations
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variables did not record increases in other variables (e.g., daily high increases despite
consistent daily lows). The patterns also showed seasonality, decreasing in magnitude and
direction during certain months.
Experimental climate change simulations have showed rapid plant community response to
warming temperatures (Klein et al. 2004,2007;Yuetal.2010). However, none have yet simulated
temperature increases of the kind we found at many stations exceeding 5 °C/100 years.
Such extreme changes can result in vegetation shifts. For example, Thuiller et al. (2008)
report up-slope movements of certain plant species in the Northern Hemisphere at a rate of
6.1 m per decade that appear correlated with shifts in precipitation and temperature over the
last 50 years. Globally, each 1 °C of temperature change moves ecological zones by 160 m
higher in altitude (Thuiller 2007). Therefore, the rate of change of 7.2 °C/100 years that was
recorded over the last 24 years at Deqin county corresponds to a 276.5 m altitudinal shift, over
11 m each year. In addition, Brandt et al. (2013) measured an annual shrub expansion rate of
2.1 % in northwest Yunnan related to early snow melt and climate warming in this area. Other
studies in northwest Yunnan have shown similar increases in treeline using repeat photography
(Baker & Moseley 2007;Moseley2006).
It remains uncertain whether species will have the capability to respond by colonizing new
areas or rapidly adapting their physiological behavior to match changing habitat conditions
(Parmesan 2007; Woodward 1987). Most alpine plants control growing season activities in
Fig. 6 Map of growing season average daily low a 24- and b48-year and average daily high c 24- and d48-
year rates of change across stations
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response to photoperiods rather than temperature (Körner & Basler 2010; Keller & Körner
2003). This precludes the potential benefit of longer growing seasons, causing extra stress due
to respiratory losses when plants are not covered by snow (Körner 2009). Wang et al.(2011)
shows increases in soil temperature and permafrost temperatures, particularly over the last 20
Fig. 7 Average daily low and daily high temperatures (°C) at Deqin station (3,320 m) and calculated at 4,000 m
and 4,400 m using the linear lapse rates. Shifts from snowfall to rainfall between 1960 and 2008 in February,
March, April, May and June at the Deqin station (3,320 m)
Ta b l e 1 Regions showing increased incidence of winter temperatures >16 °C in February and March. Prior to
1984 these stations show no recorded daily highs >16 °C in February and March, during the months that yaks are
at lower elevations closer to the stations
Station Province Years exceeding 16 °C threshold
Nangqian () S Qinghai 1999, 2003, 2004, 2007
Yu s hu ( ) S QingHai 1999, 2004, 2007
Jiangsu () SE Tibet 1999, 2004, 2007
Zaduo () SE Tibet 1999, 2004, 2007
Bomi () SE Tibet 2004, 2007
Changdu () SE Tibet 1999, 2004, 2006, 2007
Longzi () SE Tibet 1999, 2001, 2004, 2007
Rikaze () S Tibet 1999, 2001, 2004, 2007
Daocheng () SW Sichuan 1999, 2007
Litang () SW Sichuan 1999, 2007
Maerkang () W Sichuan 1999 to 2008
Dege () W Sichuan 1999, 2004, 2006, 2007
Gansu () W Sichuan 1999, 2004, 2007
Daofu () W Sichuan 1999, 2001, 2002, 2006, 2007
Xinlong () >20 °C W Sichuan 1999, 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007
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years. Changes in the type of precipitation may also significantly change vegetation, as rain
soaks directly into the ground whereas snow accumulates over the winter before being released
during the late spring or early summer (Freppaz et al. 2008;Pengetal.2010;Zhaoetal.2010).
Transitions in evapotranspiration rates in response to climatic drivers (Fan & Thomas 2013)
and coupled impacts of climate and anthropogenic induced changes including habitat
Fig. 8 May and June average daily high temperatures in the alpine zone in Deqin county from 19591968 and
19992008, showing 13 °C, 16 °C, and 20 °C thresholds with adversely impact yak physiology and performance
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fragmentation (Wischnewski et al. 2011) may cause shifts in hydrologic systems including
water retention, runoff, and erosion.
Our initial investigation into the impact of temperature increase on yaks suggests that yaks
suffer because temperatures are surpassing yaksphysiological thresholds. However, impacts of
changing climate on yak health and husbandry overall may be complex, interacting, and far-
reaching. Heavy snowfall, for example, may be precipitated by warm winter temperatures,
which can result in reduced forage and large-scaleherd die-offs. (Li et al. 2010). There may also
be cycles of impact, as when warmer spring temperatures stimulate shifts in timing when
herders move their livestock across the landscape, increasing the potential for parasite infesta-
tion as they spend more time by warm pools of stagnant water that support parasite populations.
Such factors accentuate the already drastic decrease in June habitat below the 13 °C threshold
by two-thirds since 19581968. These multiple causes warrant further investigation, as yaks
continue to provide the livelihoods for the majority of the regions inhabitants.
5Conclusion
We confirm regional assessments of climate change in the eastern Tibetan Plateau and challenge
those results by assessing more detailed patterns including sites with increasing rates of climate
change. The extreme warming and shifts in precipitation observed at some sites suggest that rapid
climate change may be exerting strong effects on vegetation, hydrology, livestock health, and thus
livelihoods in the area (Xu et al. 2009). Such impacts warrant further study as rates of warming
above 5 °C/100 years exceed the upper limits of most warming scenarios. These historical rates of
change are higher than even the worst case predicted changes in temperature increases for the
eastern Tibetan Plateau. Given that such rapid rates of warming have already happened in this
region, we need further research to investigate its consequences. Thus, the eastern Tibetan Plateau
could serve as a valuable opportunity to understand how other areas will likely respond to
changing climates and explore mitigation and adaptation strategies that target those impacts.
Acknowledgments This material is based upon work supported by the National Science Foundation under
Grant No. DGE-0549369 IGERT: Training Program on Biodiversity Conservation and Sustainable Development
in Southwest China at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. We thank graduate students at Kunming Institute of
Botany and staff at the Shangri-la Alpine Botanical Garden for their assistance. We would also like to thank two
anonymous reviewers for their contribution.
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... It is largely shaped by physiological characteristics of animals. For example, yak can only live until 120C (Haynes et al., 2014). Therefore, yak herds remain in high elevation meadows (3,500 m a.s.l.) whereas herds of cow and cho-aama moves in high elevation meadows in summer (from mid-April to mid-May, and from mid-August to mid-October), and middle elevation meadows (around 3,000-3,200 m a.s.l.) and village and its surroundings (from 2,000 to 2,500 m a.s.l.) in winter (mid-October to mid-April). ...
... Physiologically, yak can only live up to 120C. At 130C, yak's respiration rate starts to rise; at 160C, its heart rate and body temperature start to rise, and at 200C, it stops moving, grazing, drinking, or ruminating (Haynes et al., 2014). Hence, the agro-pastoral communities of the Nhāson valley have shifted the habitat of their livestock. ...
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The climate change in the Nepal-Himalayan region is not just about increased temperature and subsequent glacier melting. It speaks to broad questions on the relationship between society and the environment, science and knowledge, global and local. The present study analysis supports the understanding and responses of agro-pastoral communities on climate change in Nhāson valley of the southeast Manang District. The stories from local participants were documented and analyzed for their agro-pastoral experience. The communities inhabit in the place engaging in daily activities and accommodate practices to cope with anthropogenic climate change. The paper is based on nine months ethnographic study (from 2012-2018) undertaken in six settlements that practice agro-pastoralism for livelihood. In addition, quantitative data was also used to supplement local narratives about the changes in environmental phenomena visually in the local real world. The findings depict that the mountain agro-pastoral communities are more aware with the environmental changes associated with climatic variables. The communities' observation is grounded on the lived experience. Moreover, climate surpasses many disciplinary boundaries. Both, qualitative information based on local narratives and quantitative data, offer complementary to address complexities of global climate change.
... It is largely shaped by physiological characteristics of animals. For example, yak can only live until 120C (Haynes et al., 2014). Therefore, yak herds remain in high elevation meadows (3,500 m a.s.l.) whereas herds of cow and cho-aama moves in high elevation meadows in summer (from mid-April to mid-May, and from mid-August to mid-October), and middle elevation meadows (around 3,000-3,200 m a.s.l.) and village and its surroundings (from 2,000 to 2,500 m a.s.l.) in winter (mid-October to mid-April). ...
... Physiologically, yak can only live up to 120C. At 130C, yak's respiration rate starts to rise; at 160C, its heart rate and body temperature start to rise, and at 200C, it stops moving, grazing, drinking, or ruminating (Haynes et al., 2014). Hence, the agro-pastoral communities of the Nhāson valley have shifted the habitat of their livestock. ...
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This paper is an attempt to bring forth situations of UV radiation levels or UV index (UVI) and effects affecting different causes to concerned living beings and on environment in the Himalayas. It has analyzed solar radiation data observed at different locations, covering the elevation range of 2735 meters (m) above sea level (a.s.l.) to 4355 m a.s.l of the Nepal Himalayas. In addition, existing research results reported by other researchers on Himalayan UVI and UV guidelines of the World Health Organization (WHO) have been reviewed. The study has identified that mountaineers/climbers are exposed to enhanced high levels of UV radiation due to the coupled effect of the altitude-related increase of UV radiation and the reflection from snow and ice-covered surfaces. Sun protection measures are essential to be applied according to the UVI range/categories associated with existing weather conditions and seasons while out climbing or mountaineering, especially during high-intensity sun hours (09:00–13:30 local time (LT)) in the spring and autumn.
... Technological advances can mitigate the constraints met at this altitude that affected data scoring (the extreme cold and lack of electricity affected the batteries). However, this study shows the importance of herd management on yaks' social behaviour, particularly with the resurgence of the snow leopard [37,38] and climate changes that can dramatically modify the relationships between the predators and wild and domesticated ungulates [39,40]. These results suggest that more studies are needed to understand how herdsmen use social relationships in yaks facing these environmental pressures [41]. ...
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Herdsmen use different techniques, as per varying geographies and cultures, to keep the cohesion within herds and avoid animals getting lost or predated. However, there is no study on the social behaviour of yaks and herdsmen management practices. Therefore, this ethology study was initiated by ethnographic inquiries. In Manang, the success of the shepherd is dictated by his personal attribute of ‘Khula man’ or open-heartedness. This attribute refers to good intentions and emotions such as empathy, which allow the shepherd to focus more on others than on himself. This cultural way of assessing the skills required to become a successful and knowledgeable shepherd guided us to study the effect of cultural values on the herd’s social behaviour. We collected data from two herds living at the same settlement (Yak kharka, 4100 m altitude, Nepal) by equipping them with loggers. One of the herdsmen used the tether rope while the other one did not. Moreover, the Thaku herd had a more proactive shepherd than the Phurba one. In each herd, 17 animals were equipped with one Actigraph wgt3x-BT to measure activity using an accelerometer and spatial associations using a proximity recorder. One of the herds was equipped with GPS (N = 11) as well. Using GPS locations and activity, we showed that the two herds were cohesive and synchronised their activities but the Thaku herd (tether rope herd) was more cohesive than the Phurba herd based on the Actigraph signals. The shepherds also have personal knowledge of the social relationships of individual animals in their herds and use these relationships to keep the group cohesive and to manage cattle well.
... ier. Earlier seasonal snowmelt may lead to an increase in snowmelt-related runoff and an 45 earlier peak in snowmelt-related floods in early spring (Beebee and Manga, 2004). Climate change leads to variability in snow cover. In turn, changes in snow cover will inevitably affect climate and atmospheric circulation (Huang et al., 2021;Yu et al., 2013., Haynes et al., 2014 Arnell, 2005;Flanner et al., 2011). Specifically, snow cover anomalies will cause adjustments of the surface thermal conditions via the radiation effect, which alters heat conduction between the surface and the atmosphere. This then causes a change in temperature, resulting in abnormal circulation and precipitation (Chen et al., 50 2003 ...
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Snow phenology, recurrent seasonal patterns in snow cover and snowfall, has been significantly affected by global warming. Through the interaction with the climate, the dynamic variability of snow phenology affects the regional climate environment, vegetation ecosystem, soil properties, agricultural water resources, snow disasters and animal migration. First, this study compares the advantages, disadvantages and applicability of different sources of observation data and the principal research methods involved in studying snow phenology. Then, this work discusses the spatiotemporal variability and changing trends of snow phenology in the Northern Hemisphere, and summarizes the relationship between climate, vegetation and snow phenology. Finally, this review highlights the key areas related to snow phenology that require further study. Overall, during the past 50 years in the Northern Hemisphere, the snow cover end date (SCED) has shown a significantly advanced trend, the snow cover onset date (SCOD) has also been occurring slowly earlier, and the snow cover days (SCD) has shortened, but these two trends are not significant. The snow phenology variation is closely related to climate factors, atmospheric circulation, vegetation status and some spatial factors. Snow cover impacts climate change through interactions with atmospheric circulation systems. The rise in temperature will delay the SCOD, and the SCED is closely related to the temperature of the snowmelt season. The interaction between seasonal snow cover and climate will either stimulate or impede vegetation growth. With the change in snow cover, especially the decrease in snow cover in the melting stage can impact the climate change, the rise in temperature will change the growth conditions and extend the vegetation growth season. The relationship between snow cover and vegetation is inconsistent in different elevations and latitudes. Snow phenology variation is very complex and is the result of the combined action of many factors. Additionally, snow phenology will also have a great impact on the cryosphere. Therefore, we must understand snow phenology variation and prepare for future changes.
... Technological advances can mitigate the constraints met at this altitude that affected data scoring (extreme cold and lack of electricity affecting batteries). However, this study shows the importance of herd management on yaks social behaviour, particularly with the resurgence of the snow leopard [37,38] and the climate changes that can dramatically modify the relationships between the predators and wild and domesticated ungulates [39,40]. These results suggest that more studies are needed to understand how herdsmen use social relationships in yaks facing the environmental pressures [41]. ...
Preprint
Full-text available
Herdsmen use different techniques, as per varying geographies and cultures, to keep the cohesion within herds and avoid animals getting lost or predated. However, there is no study on the social behaviour of yaks and on herdsmen management practices. Therefore, this ethology study was initiated by ethnographic inquiries. In Manang, the success of the shepherd is dictated by his personal attribute of "Khula man" or open-heartedness. This attribute refers to good intentions and emotions such as empathy that allows the shepherd to focus more on others than on ownself. This cultural method of assessing the skills required to become a successful and knowledgable shepherd guided us to study the effect of cultural values on the herd's social behavior. We collected data from two herds living at the same settlement (Yak kharka, 4,100 m altitude, Nepal) by equipping them with loggers. One of the herdsman used the tether rope while other did not. Moreover, the Thaku herd had a more proactive shepherd than the Phurba one. In each herd, 17 animals were equipped with one actigraph wgt3x-BT to measure activity using accelerometer and spatial associations using proximity recorder. One of the herds was equipped with GPS (N=11) as well. Using GPS locations and activity, we showed that the two herds were cohesive and synchronised their activities but the herd with the tether rope was more cohesive. The shepherds also have personal knowledge of the social relationships of their herds and use these relationships to keep the group cohesive and to well manage cattle.
... Such examples of increasing vulnerability and marginalization of pastoral systems due to pasture degradation and sedentarization can be found world-wide (e.g. Haynes et al., 2014;Kassahun et al., 2008;Naess, 2013;Schmidt & Pearson, 2016;Schwartz, 2005;Singh et al., 2013;Yager et al., 2019). ...
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Abstract Environmental changes and their consequences on biodiversity are known to have far‐reaching effects on the resilience of animal populations and associated livelihoods around the world. To counteract negative demographic and economic effects on pastoralism, knowledge about the historical and current status of the environment is essential. In this study, we show how extractive industries, especially large‐scale mining, induced a cascade of land conversions which are affecting animal populations and pastoralists’ adaptive responses in northern Sweden. We examine social–ecological vulnerability in Arctic reindeer husbandry by integrating herders’ knowledge, population statistics for semi‐domesticated reindeer Rangifer t. tarandus, public data on socio‐economic variables and geospatial tools. We determine that approximately 34% of Laevas reindeer herding community's grazing grounds are functionally unavailable to reindeer at present due to the accumulation of multiple competing land use pressures. Reindeer numbers currently only remain stable due to increased management efforts. Moreover, we identified current hotspots of high cumulative impact and mineral exploration as the spatially dominating land use factor in this area. Our approach and results provide new insights for scientifically robust cumulative impact assessments of anthropogenic stressors by creating a baseline of current developments via a combination of reindeer herder's knowledge with historical data of trends and extents of human activity over the last century.
... The major issues here are the following: unplanned development practices; closure of international borders leading to restricted germplasm exchange and breed deterioration; controlled grazing; the limited will of the younger generation in the yak herding system; and climate change. Moreover, the increase in temperature in the high-altitude regions have also had impacts in terms of pasture, fodder availability, tolerance to heat, and reproduction (Haynes et al. 2014). For instance, more than 300 yaks died in north Sikkim due to heavy snow in early 2019 (Economic Times, 12 May 2019). ...
Technical Report
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Yaks play a critical role in ecosystem management, food, and energy security, as well as in the livelihood enhancement of the highlanders in the Hindu Kush Himalaya (HKH). They are also integral to the culture, tradition, and social life of the high-mountain communities. However, yak herding is impacted by climate change, closure of international borders, and increasing disinterest among the youth in the yak herding system. This has heightened the social vulnerability of the yak-dependent communities, especially the women and children. Given this backdrop, ICIMOD organized a parallel session during the 2019 “International conference on SAADC” with the following objectives: to discuss the challenges and opportunities in sustainable yak development in the HKH; share experiences on innovations, technologies, and cooperation in yak rearing in the region; and to discuss the way forward for establishing an HKH-wide yak network and reviewing its potential. The session was attended by more than 70 delegates comprising of yak herders, entrepreneurs, academicians, researchers, and policymakers from the HKH countries and elsewhere. A total of 13 technical papers were presented at the session. The presentations covered updates on yak production by the HKH countries, and other important subjects such as: policies; production (fodder, health, and breeding); husbandry and management; value chains; business models; institutions; sociocultural services; and investments and markets. Furthermore, a moderated panel session provided a platform for interaction among the yak herding communities, the scientists, entrepreneurs, and the policymakers. The meeting recognized that the current policies in the HKH are inadequate to address the issues around yak herding and that there is a need for developing a mechanism for multi-stakeholder participation in support of yak production. It found out that supporting and connecting local yak networks to national, regional (HKH), and global levels could provide a voice to the herders and a pathway for sustained efforts towards investments. Furthermore, it established that strengthening transboundary cooperation can encourage technological innovation and promote South-South cooperation for technology transfer in yak production. It was also recognized that partnerships with the private sector to enter into new business models such as social entrepreneurship that engage youth and women are critical to promoting the yak value chain. Also, events such as yak festivals need to be supported in order to value the yak tradition and culture through linkages to responsible tourism.
... It is characterized by the highest livestock herds worldwide, which are predominantly raised on grassland by the pastoral households. Livestock farming is highly sensitive to the vagaries of climate change (e.g., drought) that affects the pasture, livestock health, water resources, biodiversity, and the livelihood of herders that is hinged on the natural resources [2,3]. When natural pastures decline owing to climatic change or variability and in the absence of modern-risk coping measures [4], the foremost traditional approach of managing such risk by herding households include storage of forage and water for future use [5], creation of dry and wet season grazing areas, and splitting of the herd for easy management [6][7][8]. ...
Article
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Livestock husbandry insurance (LHI) is increasingly gaining acceptance in developing countries, relative to its efficacy in mitigating the covariate risks faced by households in vulnerable agrarian communities. However, this risk-mitigating tool has received little research attention in the context of Chinese herders. The current study focused on the status, and determinants of herders’ willingness to purchase LHI. We used a contingent valuation approach to collect data from 450 households across three grassland types in Inner Mongolia. Descriptive statistics and binary logistic regression models were used to analyze the collected data. We show that herders’ level of awareness and acceptance of LHI are below expectations. Our results further indicated that herders with higher education level, livestock number, risk perception level, awareness, and contracted grassland area are more likely to purchase LHI. Policymakers and insurers should design programs that will educate herders on LHI while taking cognizance of other critical factors that influence households to purchase insurance. This will go a long way in scaling-up the attractiveness of LHI to herders and the agrarian community at large.
Article
Spring snow depth (SSD) in the Tibetan Plateau (TP) plays an essential role in snow water estimation, vegetation growth, and climate projections for Southwest China and the surrounding Asian countries. Previous studies have reported a decline in SSD that is associated with increasing surface air temperature (Ts) across the TP over the past decades. However, only a few studies have explored the potential feedback of SSD to Ts, which has hindered the elucidation of the vulnerability of snow cover in the TP against the backdrop of rapid climate change. Based on data from 69 meteorological stations in the central and eastern parts of the TP, this study analyzes changes in SSD and its feedback to Ts from 1961 to 2013. Overall, a slightly negative trend in SSD was observed from 1961–2013, during which two contrasting trends were detected using a piecewise regression approach: an initial increase from 1961 to 1981 (0.12 cm decades‐1, p < 0.01) followed by a decrease from 1982 to 2013 (‐0.36 cm decades‐1, p < 0.01). Sensitivity analysis revealed that the SSD decline was systematically correlated with a positive Ts anomaly, with sensitivities of ‐0.050 cm °C‐1 (p < 0.01) and ‐0.069 cm °C‐1 (p < 0.01) for 1961–2013 and 1982–2013, respectively. However, following the accelerated SSD decline during 1982–2013, its potential feedback to Ts was attenuated, with averaged feedback values from −1.328 °C cm‐1 during 1961–2013 to −0.936 °C cm‐1 during 1982–2013 in latitudes below 3500 m, distributed in the Qaidam and Yellow River basins, and the upper reaches of the Yangtze River basin. The decrease in feedback from SSD to Ts may lead to changes in the mechanism controlling Ts dynamics across the TP, which should be considered in climate change projections in future studies. This article is protected by copyright. All rights reserved.
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The evidence for rapid climate change now seems overwhelming. Global temperatures are predicted to rise by up to 4 °C by 2100, with associated alterations in precipitation patterns. Assessing the consequences for biodiversity, and how they might be mitigated, is a Grand Challenge in ecology.
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Aims The eastern Himalayan region of Southwest China represents the world’s most biodiverse temperate region as well as a cultural hotspot undergoing rapid cultural and ecological change. This area represents the center of origin for many plant groups including horticulturally valuable species of Pedicularis, Rhododendron and Primula. Alpine meadows here also provide summer pastures for Tibetan yak herders and the source for important medicinal plants. Stocking levels for livestock here have quadrupled over the last five decades and shrubs are encroaching into many historical rangelands. Yak herders voice concerns over both shrub encroachment and shrinking grasslands. In this study, we sought to determine: (i) Are alpine rangelands in Deqin County overgrazed and degraded? (ii) What are the local impacts of grazing on plant diversity and community composition? And (iii) which environmental variables covary with these differences in species composition across the grazing gradient? Methods To examine the ecological impacts of grazing in Deqin County, northwest Yunnan and assess its long-term sustainability, we used county records to determine historical population and livestock numbers, confirmed the results of interviews by Haynes (2011) and surveyed plant species richness and cover along a grazing gradient extending away from herder huts. Along these transects, we sampled 1 m² quadrats at 5 m intervals, noting species present and percent cover for vascular plants, grasses, sedges, rushes, moss, lichen, exposed rock, bare ground and feces. We also measured the average and maximum plant height within each quadrat. We then computed species richness for each of the 38 transects, calculating alpha and beta diversities. We used one-way ANOVAs to compare mean species richness values and average and maximum plant height across grazing intensities. To chart changes in composition along the 100m gradient, we also plotted the percent cover of graminoid, forb, shrub and bare ground versus distance from the hut. We applied NMS ordination to relate community patterns to environmental variables and grazing intensity using distances to determine species groupings. Important Findings Livestock impacts are clearly evident with proportions of grass and bare ground decreasing, shrubs increasing and forbs maintaining even cover with increasing distance from the huts. In comparison with earlier surveys of sites farther from huts, we found reduced plant cover and diversity. Plant species richness almost doubles with increasing distance from herder huts from 9.9 to 19.3 species per 1 m² quadrat. An ordination of species and environmental variables demonstrates that grazing strongly affects plant community com position across these plots with strong impacts on palatable plants. If herd sizes remain large and suitable areas for grazing continue to decline, the cumulative impacts of grazing appear likely to degrade the rich diversity of the region and reduce rangeland quality, threatening its ability to sustain current grazing levels.
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In this study, we apply temperature, precipitation, and other data from 66 Chinese meteorological stations including Xining and Lhasa to analyze the extreme climate events and their impacting factors over the Qinghai-Tibet Plateau during the period 1961–2007. We focus on the spatial and temporal features of extreme climate events and their long-term changes over five climate zones of alpine grassland, meadow, and desert areas. Results show that, during the past decades, the changes in climate over the Qinghai-Tibet Plateau present trends towards warm and wet conditions. These changes in temperature and precipitation are evident in both seasonal means and extreme events, and the changes in precipitation are apparent in both precipitation amount and number of precipitation days. Clearly, warm and wet events increase, but cold and dry events decrease over the plateau region. Features of the warming climate are relatively consistent in spatial and seasonal distributions, with the most significant changes in winter and autumn and at nighttime. Northern Qinghai exhibits the greatest and most significant decrease in the frequency of extremely low-temperature events. However, the wetting trend shows more distinctive spatial features and is more seasonally dependent. While the trends in both precipitation amount and the number of precipitation days are positive in all climate zones for winter and spring, both positive and insignificant negative trends appear in summer and autumn. The largest decrease in the frequency of severely dry events is found over southeastern Tibet and western Sichuan.
Article
Tibetan yak herding practices in northwest Yunnan, southwest China have maintained remarkable biological diversity. To learn more about local cultural adaptation to policy changes, we interviewed 37 households in Deqin County on their traditional knowledge, and the changes they have observed in ecological conditions, livestock health, and land management. These villages varied in proximity to main roads, farmland quality, and livelihood options. Herd sizes in Deqin have quadrupled since the 1950s, due to commune era policies and subsequent privatization of livestock. The practice of burning shrubs increased during the communal period but has since decreased due to a burn ban. Herders report that the increase in shrublands invading alpine meadows has reduced livestock forage, reducing the productivity of alpine rangelands and yak health. Butter production has declined by 30 % over the last two decades. Herders are shifting to diversify sources of income when available, but villagers in remote and protected areas continue to depend on livestock for much of their livelihood. Scientific data confirm herder reported ecological changes including increased temperature, decreased snowfall, and accounts of increased erosion (which deserves further study). Climate, policy, and economic incentives have interacted to increase pressure on shrinking alpine meadows and reduce dairy production.