Project Sites in China and Nepal
Our research targets two key case studies: the Wolong Giant Panda reserve in China and the Chitwan National Park in Nepal. These two cases, located on opposite sides of the Himalayan continental divide, are characterized by important differences, but they also share a large number of important similarities. Both study areas are World Heritage properties of UNESCO and are among the top 25 global biodiversity hotspots. Other key similarities include:
- Extraordinary ecological diversity
- Significant vegetation and forest areas are home to high-profile endangered species
- Encroachments by nearby populations as the main mechanism of vegetation and habitat change.
Research on these two sites offers a key opportunity to begin to “scale-up” investigation of human-environment interaction to identify the human activities that can be modified to reduce degradation of biodiversity and improve preservation of endangered species.
Our program in China builds on the longitudinal study of endangered Giant Pandas at the Wolong Nature Reserve (southwestern China) and focuses on interactions among human activities (e.g. fuelwood collection and farming), environment (forest and panda habitat), and conservation policies (e.g. a Grain-to-Green Program). We take a systems approach to understanding complex population-environment interactions. Survey instruments are used to measure human demographic and socioeconomic conditions and human activities. Using Global Positioning Systems (GPS), we are able to locate human and natural features (e.g., household locations, panda feces). Field samples of forest composition and structure including understory bamboo availability are taken across the reserve. We use remote sensing imagery to extrapolate our field measures to the entire landscape (200,000 ha). Various types of information are analyzed using a variety of analytical tools and they are integrated using a Geographic Information System (GIS) and systems modeling. For example, some of the empirical data have been integrated into an ABM for evaluating long-term consequences of various policy scenarios at multiple spatial scales.
Our program in Nepal builds on a unique micro-level longitudinal study of the reciprocal relationships between population processes (marriage, fertility, and migration) and the environment (land use/cover, vegetation and consumption of resources) in the foothills of the Nepalese Himalayas. This study features direct observation measurement of land use in 151 neighborhoods and detailed counts of vegetation abundance and species diversity from 265 plots surrounding those neighborhoods. Both land use data and vegetation data were collected three times over a ten year period (1996, 2000, and 2006) from the same locations. The population measures feature monthly records of births, deaths, marriages, in-migration, out-migration, and contraceptive use for every individual living in those neighborhoods, including tracking of these events among the out-migrants, during the intervening nine year period. Additional data includes histories of community change over time, individual life histories for all residents age 15-59, and household-level measures of agricultural and consumption practices (collected in 1996, 2001, and 2006).