Biodiversity and Livelihood Development in Land-use gradients in an Era of Climate Change

Dr. Christoph Scheidegger /Programme Coordinator (Professor, Swiss Federal Institute for Forest, Snow and Landscape Research, WSL, Switzerland)

Dr. Krishna K. Shrestha / Main Partner - Nepal Coordinator  (Professor and Former Head, Central Department of Botany, Tribhuvan University, Nepal)

Dr. Michael Nobis (Leiter Forschungsgruppe Räumliche Ökologie, WSL)

Dr. Ram P. Chaudhary (Professor, Central Department of Botany, TU)

Dr. Chitra B. Baniya (Lecturer, Central Department of Botany, TU, Nepal)

Grant Support: Swiss National Science Foundation (SNSF)

PhD Students

Mr. Shiva Devkota, WSL, Switzerland

Mr. Jyoti Prasad Gajurel, TU, Nepal

Mr. Sanjeev Kumar Rai, TU, Nepal

Project starting date: October 1, 2010

Duration: 36 months

Supported by: Swiss National Science Foundation

Study areas
Manaslu Conservation Area, Kanchenjunga Conservation Area, and Sagarmatha Region (Out of Buffer Zone of Sagarmatha National Park)


The effects of climate change in mountain regions are expected to be more intense and detectable than in many other regions of the world since climatic conditions vary sharply with elevation. The climatic impacts on fragile ecosystems of Nepal’s Himalaya are no exception. It is increasingly being observed that biological systems are disrupted, migrations are starting earlier and species' geographic ranges are shifting.

The overall goal of this research collaboration is to identify and analyze threats and opportunities related to climate change. In mountain regions, climate warming is generally considered to be correlated with a change in seasonal precipitation. Both changes will influence the way and intensity of human land use. In our project we therefore propose to study how different levels of land-use intensity (from primeval forests to arable fields) do affect biodiversity. We propose to study replicated land-use gradients at various altitudes in three regions with a different regional climate, and in particular, different levels of seasonal precipitation.

The project is subdivided into six workpackages (WP). The detailed description of the study areas and sites will be carried out in WP 1. The assessment of biodiversity along the land-use gradients will be carried out in WP2 and in WP 3 local and regional geneflow will be studied for two species in order to assess functional connectivity. Data analyses are assigned to two different work packages: In WP4 all present-day data will be prepared and analyzed, whereas significant effects between biodiversity and environment will be used in WP5 to develop and evaluate biodiversity scenarios under future environmental change. The outcomes of the research project will be summarized and the consequences for sustainable land-use and appropriate conservation measures to mitigate climate change effects in the study region will be discussed with stakeholders and appropriate documentations will be elaborated in WP6.

Methods for the biodiversity assessment along land-use gradients have been developed by the applicant in a European Framework Programme and corresponding data sets of the Swiss Biodiversity Monitoring program have been analyzed in detail by M. Nobis. In the Nepalese team, expertise on local effects of global changes in people's livelihood, vegetation and cultural landscapes in upper Manang valley has been developed in a current collaboration with the University of Bergen. Our project will build on this experience and establish intensive biodiversity research activities in three less investigated regions of Nepal.

Nepali PhD students will be trained in population genetics methods and ecological modelling at WSL. One student (Mr. Shiva Devkota) will follow a Ph.D. programme at a Bern University, Switzerland and the other two students (Mr. Sanjeev Kumar Rai and Mr. Jyoti Prasad Gajurel) will do their Ph.D. at Tribhuvan University, Nepal. In three years of project duration 7 M.Sc students from Tribhuvan University will be trained and funded for their dissertations and will be jointly supervised by professors from Nepal and Switzerland. The project will invest in capacity building in Nepal by giving special lectures in topics not currently covered by the Universities, and by training programmes for local authorities and parataxonomists.

The mutual trust will be established with the Government of Nepal, Ministry of Forests and Soil Conservation / Department of National Parks and Wildlife Conservation (DNPWC); National Trust for Nature Conservation, Nepal (NTNC, Nepal) and the Swiss Foundation for Development and International Cooperation Nepal / Nepal Swiss Community Forestry Project along with the Central Department of Botany. The project will emphasise on the infrastructure strengthening of the collaborating institutions, including local CBOs of the study areas.