IN THE HIMALAYAS, NEPAL



RESEARCH ON Global Changes and Local Effects has two main sources of funding: 

(1) Norwegian Research Council is supporting   Globalisation processes in Himalyan mountain communities:  marginalisation or development?
Project leader: Dr. OLE R. VETAAS , CDS, University of Bergen (UoB), NORWAY.

(2) NUFU is supporting Local effects of large scale global changes: a case study in the Himalayas, Nepal
Project coordinators:  Prof. RAM CHAUDHARY, Tribhuvan University, Nepal
Prof. TOR H. AASE, Dept. of Geography, UoB

Pilot study from Manang, central Nepal

  These  projects will assess the effect of globalisation,  such as global warming and internationalisation, on communities in the Himalayas (Nepal). Global warming and  internationalisation may both have negative effects on mountain communities, but it may also create new possibilities. Global warming has a direct effect on the glaciers, which are retreating in the Himalayas. This will effect the water resources and may lead to lack of irrigation-water for the agricultural production, but marginal mountain agriculture may also be facilitated by global warming. Internationalisation has also affected the Himalayan communities through tourism and labour migration. Mountain terrace cultivation is labour intensive, and the new income source may also lead to lack of labour  and mis-management of the agricultural system. The overall objective is to use an interdisciplinary approach to elucidate how crop production  is affected by global warming, water supply from retreating glaciers, and internationalisation of tourism and labour migration. The project will integrate the different research components by a localised research in the Manang District. An implicit aim is to promote communication between natural and social sciences, and elucidate how temperature and social perception of risk and marginality determine the limit for crop production.                                    

The NRC-project "Globalisation processes in Himalyan mountain communities: marginalisation or development?"
will assess if:  
1.  global warming will cause a rapid deglaciation  and shortage of irrigation water 
2.  global warming will  enlarged  the potential area for agriculture
3.  increased internationalisation through migration and tourism will lead to mismanagement  of the agricultural landscape

The NUFU-project  "Local effects of large scale global changes: a case study in the Himalayas, Nepal"
will assess :

 if the social changes related  to globalisation  influence the management of the agricultural systems, 
 such as agro-biodiversity  and the interrelated pastoral  transhumance system (i.e. agropastoral system)
 if high level of tourism will lead to deforestation
 if the forest will continue to provide the compost material for the agriculture field
 if the there is micro-nutrient deficiency in the soil
 if the genetic variation of the  land races of wheat and buck-wheat correlate with elevation
 if internationalisation and Intellectual property rights are in conflict with farmers’ rights  concerning land-races of crop plants

The glacier in the area are retreating fast, but large glacier with a reservoir above 5500-6000 will not disappear in the nearest future, whereas smaller glacier without high reservoir may disappear within this century. This will affect the local water resources and may lead to lack of irrigation-water for some agricultural fields. But, current irrigation problems are more related to lack of manpower for channel maintenance rather than the retreating glaciers. Retreating glacier are revealing new open areas where primary succession takes place. The most important tree in this area, Pinus wallichiana (Himalayan Blue Pine), colonizing these recently deglaciated areas. These trees have very high vigour and appear in newly exposed substrate, and are the dominant tree in the vegetation development until a mature forest is established. These trees are key resource, since they are used both as fuel wood and to make compost for crop field fertilization. Secondary succession is also taken place in the area as consequence of globalisation. The inhabitants in the area have become international traders and a large part of the local population has out migrated to urban centres in Nepal and South East Asia. This has left approximately more than half of the crop fields abandoned, where old filed secondary succession are taking place. Changes in the cultural landscape and its diversity are of special importance since the area is part of the Annapurna Conservation Area. The average plant species richness increased rapidly after abandonment, but declined in the old abandoned fields. However, the total number of species was higher in the oldest fields, and the floristic differences between the old fields were also higher here (divergence). This is probably because forest did not develop due to grazing by domestic animals. Although many crop fields are abandoned the production of wheat in the active fields are relatively high in a national context. The production declined, as expected, at high elevation (lower temperature), but it did also decline at lower elevations. This unimodal relationship between wheat yield and temperature was fond in 2003 and 2004, and is probably related to spring frost in the bottom of the U-valley. This is caused by cold air is accumulating in the bottom of the U-valley during nights with low wind speed, i.e. inversion, where the chances for frost is lower in the south exposed elevated slopes. Thus the tradition that all framers in the valley have to obey a fixed date for planting and harvesting is not ecological sound, and this will hamper a potential expansion of the farming land which could have been possible due to global warming



Bhattarai, K.R., Vetaas, O.R. & Grytnes, J.A. 2004. Relationship between plant species richness and biomass in arid sub- alpine grassland of the central Himalayas, Nepal. Folia Geobotanica 39: 57-71.

Aase, T.H.  & Vetaas, O.R.. 2006. Risk Management by Communal Decision in Trans-Himalayan Farming: Manang Valley in Central Nepal. Human Ecology.
(in press)

Mong, C. E. & Vetaas, O.R. Establishment of Pinus wallichiana on a Himalayan glacier foreland: stochastic distribution or safe sites? Artic, Antartic, and Alpine Research. (accepted)


Christian E. Mong 2003. Pinus wallichiana colonizing a glacier foreland in Annapurna, central Nepal.
University of Bergen, Norway.

Chitra Baniya 2004: Succession and diversity in abandoned crop fields at high elevation in the Central Himalayas.
University of Bergen, Norway.

Shishir Paudel 2005 Species composition and richness: the effect of aspect in an arid Trans Himalayan landscape, Nepal.
University of Bergen, Norway.

Khrisna B. Shersta . Species richness across the forestline ecotone in an arid Trans Himalayan landscape, Nepal.University of Bergen, Norway (forthcoming)





  The University Senate and Faculty of Social Science (UoB) supported the first  pilot study 
  in Manang (Nepal) in fall  2000

 A preliminary survey in the Manang district  was  done during  spring 2001 financed by NUFU.
 The report for Annapurna Conservation Area Program and King Mahendra Trust for Nature Conservation.
(download pdf-file ).