High altitude survival: conflicts between pastoralism and wildlife in the Trans-Himalaya

C. Mishra

Research output: Thesisinternal PhD, WU

Abstract

<em><p>Keywords</em> : Pastoralism, agriculture, wildlife, Himalaya, competition, bharal, yak, livestock, snow leopard, wolf, herbivore, ungulate, resource, rangeland, steppe, mountain</p><em><p>How harmonious is the coexistence between pastoralism and wildlife?</em> This thesis is a response to repeated calls for a better understanding of pastoralism and its impacts on wildlife in India. Based on studies in the high altitude rangelands of the Trans-Himalaya that have a grazing history of over three millennia, I attempt to understand an agro-pastoral system and its conflicts with wildlife, with the ultimate aim of guiding conservation policy and management. Though the bulk of the thesis addresses the issues of resource limitation and competition between livestock and wild herbivores, an attempt is also made to understand the social aspects of livestock grazing. At the level of the family, which is the basic unit of production, the agro-pastoral system appears to suitably maximize production while mediating environmental risk. However, the families undergo substantial financial losses due to livestock depredation by the snow leopard <em>Uncia uncia</em> and the wolf <em>Canis lupus.</em> The endangered carnivores are persecuted in retaliation. Rangeland vegetation appears to be at different stages of degradation due to intensive and pervasive human use, and a global comparison reveals that the Trans-Himalaya fall at the low end of the range in terms of graminoid biomass. Animal production modeling and analysis of stocking densities reveal resource limitation for large herbivores at the landscape level, with a majority of the rangelands in the 12,000 km <sup>2</SUP>study area being overstocked. Studies on the diet of bharal <em>Pseudois nayaur</em> , a wild mountain ungulate, and seven species of livestock, reveal substantial resource overlap. This, together with resource limitation, results in resource competition. Bharal get out-competed in rangelands with high stocking density, where reduction in bharal density is brought about by resource-dependent variation in fecundity and neonate mortality. Theoretical analyses reveal a consistent morphological pattern in species body masses in the Trans-Himalayan wild herbivore assemblage, arguably brought about by the interplay of competition and facilitation. The analyses also suggest possible competitive exclusion of several wild herbivores by livestock over the last three millennia. The results of the thesis are relevant to land use planning and conservation management.</p>
Original languageEnglish
QualificationDoctor of Philosophy
Awarding Institution
  • Wageningen University
Supervisors/Advisors
  • Prins, Herbert, Promotor
  • van Wieren, Sip, Promotor
Award date14 Dec 2001
Place of PublicationS.l.
Print ISBNs9789058085429
Publication statusPublished - 2001

Keywords

  • pastoralism
  • nomadism
  • herds
  • wildlife
  • wildlife conservation
  • conflict
  • agropastoral systems
  • india
  • himalaya

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