The highly biodiverse but fragile mountain ecosystems of North East India have diverse vegetation types encompassing from the subtropical, submontanne, montanne, subalpine to alpine systems. North East India is nestled in the globally recognized biodiversity hotspot and an ecoregion and renowned for its high species diversity and endemism. It is also recognized as one of the centres of origin of cultivated plants. The dependence of the population on forest's resources is high which provides livelihood to more than 225 tribal groups native to the region.
The predicted increase in the precipitation in the forest areas in the Indian subcontinent is higher than that of the non-forest area (Ravindranath et al., 2006). Climate models predict 20 -3.50 C increase in temperature and 250 - 500mm increase in precipitation in the North Eastern region (Ravindranath et al., 2006; IPCC technical paper V). Increase in rainfall may not have significant impact on the forest areas of North East which are already experiencing high rainfall but change in temperature regime may cause severe impact and significant changes (Ravindranath and Sukumar, 1996).
The Biodiversity Conservation and Climate Change programme of Winrock International India is seeking funding support for a consultation, training on Climate Change models to study the impact on forests and biodiversity of North East India and thereafter a programme on the same in the region. A grant for such a regional consultation is likely but until that grant is received the consultation has to wait.
A follow-up to the workshop will be the initiation of baseline data collection on biodiversity through secondary and primary sources in order to attempt modeling of the impacts of climate change on the biodiversity of North East.
Global vegetation patterns have evolved due to the variations in the climate regimes, hence variations in climate change impact the biological diversity at local, regional and global level. (Warrick et al., 1986; Heil and Hootsmans, 1986, Ravindranath et al, 2006).The impact of global warming on biodiversity, has emerged as an active area in contemporary conservation biology research and it is extremely important for a country like India, where community dependence on forests is very high and climate change can have worse impacts than expected or predicted on biodiversity of forest ecosystems (Ravindranath et al., 2006).
The projections made by India's National Communication to the Inter Governmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), on impact of Climate Change on biogeographic zones and the forest types (NATCOM, MoEF, 2005) with limited data sets is though indicative but still alarming. The need of the hour is to understand the impact of climate change on forests, biodiversity and livelihood and incorporate the knowledge in conservation practices so that the imminent threats could be addressed through adaptation strategies.
Projections of climate change impacts presently available are generally simulated on a regional or global scale hence highly prone to errors (Kumar et al., 2006). Research has indicated that the range shift of the biomes or ecosystems (Parmesan, 2006) are due to individual responses of species which are highly sensitive to climate changes. These circumstances rein the necessity for undertaking finer scale modeling based on individual species responses towards climate change. In the Indian scenario, the two important measures of climate change which have direct and significant impact on the biodiversity are the variation in precipitation and temperature (Sukumar, 2000). The increase in precipitation can change the nature of the forest in terms of the floral species dominance, canopy cover, forest dynamics etc. It can rebuild the connections between fragmented ecosystems, support forest areas to encroach in to grasslands, alter tree species dominance and thereby change forest class. vise versa, reduction in precipitation can support shift towards deciduous category of forests, expansion of grass lands, lead to forest fragmentation and raise frequencies of forest fire. All these can cause significant change in faunal species distribution, demography and composition.
The predicted increase in the precipitation in the forest areas in the Indian subcontinent is higher than that of the non-forest areas (Ravindranath et al., 2006). Climate models predict 20 -3.50 C increase in temperature and 250 - 500 mm increase in precipitation in the North Eastern region (Ravindranath et al., 2006; IPCC technical paper V). Increase in rainfall may not have significant impact on the forest areas of North East which are already experiencing high rainfall but change in temperature regimes may cause severe impact and significant changes (Ravindranath et al, 2006).
The highly biodiverse but fragile mountain ecosystems of North East India have diverse vegetation types encompassing subtropical, sub-montanne, montanne, subalpine to alpine systems and is renowned for its high species diversity and endemism. Glaciers and many high altitude wetlands play a significant role in hydrology of the Brahmaputra and the Barak river valleys- the two important river systems in the region. It is also recognized as one of the centres' of origin of cultivated plants and harbour the wild germplasms of many varieties of rice and citrus. The dependence of the local population on forest's resources is high which provides livelihood to more than 225 tribal groups native to the region.
Context: While the Indo Burma region is recognized as a global 'hotspot', available baseline data is not adequate enough to understand the climate change impacts, which is possible through advanced techniques. It is therefore pertinent to develop a roadmap that strategizes the effort in the right direction. A three day brainstorming workshop is needed to initiate a programme that would focus on impacts of climate change on biodiversity of North East India, its likely impact on livelihood, to discuss the issues in light of the overall national level and global level scenarios, and to provide an initial training that would help understanding the capacity needs.
The overall goal of this project is to build capacities of the existing institutions and initiate a programme to assess the vulnerability of the region to climate change, attempt to understand its impact on the biodiversity and design an adaptation strategy to ensure social and ecological security.
1. Initiate a process of generation of a strong and robust data set for long-term monitoring of the impact of climate change on biodiversity through the identified ecological indicators like demographic data, meta population dynamics, range shift, population distribution changes and habitat utilization at different elevation bands of mountain ecosystem in North East India.
2. Develop a bioclimatic model for prediction of the impact of climate change on biodiversity.
3. Identify vulnerable locations in NE India and highlight the possible impacts of global warming on biodiversity and livelihood of forest dependent communities.
Identify species and habitats vulnerable to impact of climate change in North East India
Understanding the linkages between climate change and the loss of biodiversity will require a multi disciplinary approach. This needs expertise in the diversity of flora and fauna and their distribution, GIS, modeling techniques, software development, climatologists, sociologists and economists and above all the climate witness who are perceiving the changes due to climate change. Bringing the Indian scientists close to the contemporary research and developments in these aspects is a national requirement to design the biodiversity conservation strategies of the country in the backdrop of the climate change and its impacts on the same.
The methodology would collation and analysis of existing information followed by a three day workshop with subject specialists. The requirement of satellite imageries would be for undertaking a time series analysis of change detection in land use pattern in the region.
Post workshop, a publication will be brought out for wider dissemination.
1. Setting up of a network of institutions to pursue the subject of impacts of climate change on biodiversity with well defined roles.
2. Training the scientists of the region through technical sessions.
3. Development of a long term working plan collaboration with expertise available in India and overseas.
4. The initiative will contribute to Winrock India's role as an official facilitator to Ministry of Environment and Forests, Government of India in preparation of India's second communication to the IPCC
5. The proposed workshop will complement Winrock India's effort to initiate a regional training programme on Climate Change with researches and students of North East India with support likely from Department of Science and Technology, Government of India.
Following are the activities:
1. Collate data from all the North Eastern States (Arunachal Pradesh, Sikkim, Assam, Nagaland, Mizoram, Manipur, and Meghalaya,
2. Collect climate witness data, on change in flowering and fruiting pattern, behavioural changes, shifts in tree line etc. from community representatives
3. Collect climate data from Indian Metrological Department weather Stations in North East India and undertake preliminary analysis to detect variations in patterns.
4. Prepare thematic maps on the vulnerable areas, species and ecosystem based on the biodiversity and sustainable forest utilisation point of view.
5. Collect demographic data on tribal communities from Census of India
6. Prepare Background material for detailed discussions in a Workshop to follow.
The Workshop Agenda are:
1. Assessment of vulnerability of North East India to Climate change
A. Key note presentation.
B. Overall scenario in North East India. Presentation on data collated prior to the workshop,
C. Presentations by representatives from North Eastern states of India
D. Identification of sites and species vulnerable to impacts of climate change
1. Climate change scenario in the world and its affect on biodiversity ( at a global level)
2. Presentations by experts from Overseas on the impact assessment and adaptation strategies design across the world.
3. Climate change scenario of North Eastern India - observations and trends. Discussions among experts on biodiversity, climatology and modellers .
4. Training needs on modelling climate change impacts on forests
1. Draft 5 Year action plan to initiate a programme for the region
2. Develop a Network in the region with possible roles.
Post Workshop activities
1. Preparation of a report on Workshop proceedings and publication of the summary for wider dissemination amongst stakeholders, media and policy makers in particular.
2. Finalize the five year action plan.with log frame. .
Funding for the aforesaid initiative is being sought from Department of Science and Technology, Government of India and Indo US Forum for Science and Technology. Colorado State University, US has agreed to provide training support on modeling impacts of climate change on biodiversity.