Technological innovations and ecological research for the sustainable use of bio-resources in the Eastern Himalaya

The Eastern Himalaya in India is one of the few places on Earth that retains cultural, ethnic and biological diversity of global significance. Spectacular landscapes and unusual fauna and flora make these mountains one of the 34 global hotspots of biodiversity. However, despite the tremendous importance of bio-resources to human well being, there is widespread degradation of natural ecosystems in the Eastern Himalaya. Population and economic growth are confining nature into smaller and smaller areas. Climate change is likely to exacerbate the problem, with severe consequences for human welfare, and for nature’s capacity to recover from the severe degradation currently under way as well as respond to future climatic impacts. The urgency of the problem has not yet translated into adequate concrete actions or concrete programmes to measure and monitor changes in bio-resources.

The Technological innovations and ecological research for the sustainable use of bio-resources in the Eastern Himalaya project addresses the gaps in knowledge and action to advance knowledge on biodiversity in the Eastern Himalaya region with initial focus on Sikkim. It will identify linkages between biodiversity and the functioning and stability of ecological communities. And lastly, it will investigate the potential consequences of future climate change for biodiversity configuration and the provisioning of ecosystem goods (bio-resources) and services to humans; and build capacity for local communities to sustainably use bio-resources and adapt to climate change.

The project is a five year collaborative venture between National Centre for Biological Sciences (NCBS) and ATREE. It is funded by the Department of Bio-Technology (DBT).

The objectives of the Technological innovations and ecological research for the sustainable use of bio-resources in the Eastern Himalaya project are:

  • To develop a state-of-the-art research programme that will contribute to the advancement of knowledge on biodiversity in the Eastern Himalaya region with initial focus on Sikkim;
  • To identify linkages between biodiversity and the functioning and stability of ecological communities;
  • To investigate the potential consequences of future climate change for biodiversity configuration and the provisioning of ecosystem goods (bio-resources) and services to humans; and
  • To build capacity of local communities to sustainably use bio-resources and adapt to climate change.

This translates into three broad areas of work:

  • Development of an ecological research programme for biodiversity and climate change studies, and for the sustainable use of bioresources
    • To map the spatial distribution and abundance of bio-resources, investigate the potential impacts of climate change on their distribution and diversity, and to quantify the economic value of these ecosystem services in the Eastern Himalaya (NCBS & ATREE)
    • Sustainable use of bio-resources (ATREE)
  • Training and outreach
    • Training programs and workshops for regional scientists and students to build local capacity (NCBS & ATREE)
  • Research and technology support towards IBSD mandate
    • Animal bio-resources programme: Technical and scientific inputs for Yak genetic value addition and honey biotechnology including floral calendar (NCBS & ATREE)
    • NCBS scientists will facilitate the use of the platform technologies centre (C-CAMP) for IBSD projects to will provide them with the opportunity to move beyond simple, correlational studies, to quantitative screens of compounds and specific gene products. The facilities available will include Sanger sequencing (through the NCBS sequencing facility), expression analyses and protein characterization through mass spectroscopy

The project was initiated in 2009. By May 2010, 13 research students were selected to work in the three areas outlined above. The selected students underwent an intensive field orientation programme for two weeks in Sikkim. Nearly 18 months were spent to train students in ecological and social science research and data collection. Specific topics for research, within the overall goal of the project, were identified and data collection started in the second half of 2011. These are described in the following sections.







Specific study Research Fellow
Sustainable use of bioresources component Tenzing Ingty (ATREE)
Fragmented landscape and ecosystem services: a study of pollinators outside protected areas in Sikkim Himalaya (using Sikkim mandarin orange (Citrus reticulata) and bees as focal species. Urbashi Pradhan (ATREE)
Relationships between flowering patterns and the spatial and temporal variability in abiotic and biotic factors, specifically with respect to the Rhododendron species. Shweta Basnett (ATREE), Yangchela Bhutia (ATREE)
Eco-hydrology and plant-water relations in Sikkim Himalayas in the context of climate variability and climate change. Manish Kumar (ATREE)
Assess community structure and assembly of the warm broad-leaved forest in Sikkim Himalaya by measuring important functional traits of the major species that occur in these systems. Radhika Kanade (ATREE)
Ecology of small carnivores in Kyongnosla Alpine Sanctuary. Sunita Khatiwara (NCBS)
Ecology of wild ungulates in Kyongnosla Alpine Sanctuary Tanushree Srivastava (NCBS)
Population ecology of herbaceous species in alpine Eastern Himalayas and their persistence ability in different environmental conditions Dharmendra Lamsal (NCBS)
Elevational pattern of diversity and distribution of Primula species in Eastern Himalaya Priya Darshini Gurung (NCBS)
Evolutionary history of the high altitude mammalian species, Pikas (family Ochotonidae) using genetic DNA sequence analysis. Nishma Dahal (NCBS)




ATREE

Krishnaswamy J., John R., Joseph S., 2014. Consistent response of vegetation dynamics to recent climate change in tropical mountain regions. Global Change Biology. Vol. 20 (1). pp.203-215

Shweta Basnett, 2013. Flowering, pollinators and climate change. Eastern Himalayas. Vol. 2, No. 2, pp.1

Shweta Basnett, 2013. Rhododendrons : Beyond just a beautiful ornamental flower. Field Biology. Sanctuary Asia, pp.77-79

Samantha Ryder, 2013. Water quality of springs in Sikkim. Eastern Himalayas. Vol. 2, No. 2, pp.3

Shrestha, Uttam Babu, Shiva Gautam, and Kamaljit S. Bawa. 2012. Widespread climate change in the Himalayas and associated changes in local ecosystems. PLoS ONE 7(5): e36741

Ingty,T., Bawa,K.S., 2012. Climate Change And Indigenous Peoples. In Arrawatia,M.L., Tambe,S. (Eds), Climate Change in Sikkim Patterns, Impacts and Initiatives. Information and Public Relations Department, Government of Sikkim, Gangtok, Ch.17, pp. 275-290

Bawa,K.S.,Ingty,T., 2012. Climate Change in Sikkim: A Synthesis.In Arrawatia,M.L., Tambe,S. (Eds), Climate Change in Sikkim Patterns, Impacts and Initiatives. Information and Public Relations Department, Government of Sikkim, Gangtok, Ch. 23, pp. 413

Ingty,T., 2011. Changing with the seasons. Current Conservation. 5(3), pp. 24-32

NCBS

Savory F. R., Ramakrishnan U., 2014. Asymmetric patterns of Reassortment and Concerted Evolution in Cardamom Bushy Dwarf Virus. Infection, Genetics and Evolution. Vol. 24, pp. 15-24

Srinivasan U., Tamma K., Ramakrishnan U., 2013. Past climate and species ecology drive nested species richness patterns along an east-west axis in the Himalaya. Global Ecology and Biogeography, pp.1-9

Velho N., Ratnam J., Srinivasan U., Sankaran M., 2012. Shifts in community structure of tropical trees and avian frugivores in forests recovering from past logging. Biological Conservation, Vol. 153, pp. 32-40