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Anticipating Climate Change in the Pamir Mountains 2015


Overview

Question: How can traditional ecological calendars used to guide agricultural activity link to climate science so as to anticipate climate change in the Pamir Mountains?
Submit Proposals: https://www.climatecolab.org/contests/2014/anticipating-climate-change-in-the-pamir-mountains
Rules: All entrants must agree to the Contest rules and Terms of Use
Deadline: Saturday, May 16, 2015 at 23:59:00 PM Eastern Daylight Time

Background

In the last century, calendars of the human body fell out of use under the Soviet system. This means that the calendars were not updated to adapt as the climate has changed. Today, villagers are working with social scientists like contest advisor Dr. Kassam, to recover these calendars, but the villagers are finding that the increasing variability and rapid change in climate have made their traditional calendars less reliable. 

All over the world, indigenous communities that contributed least to global climate change are at the vanguard of its impacts. This contest seeks creative ways to revitalize calendars of the human body, by drawing on both scientific knowledge about climatic change and their own traditional ecological knowledge, cumulatively handed down through generations. We believe both traditional ecological and scientific knowledge are essential to actionable and culturally appropriate adaptation strategies.

Observed Climate Changes in the Pamir Mountains

Residents in the Pamir Mountains have noticed the following climate-related changes and impacts:

  • Increasing water levels in rivers and lakes due to rapid snow and glacial melt;
  • Villages at lower elevations are losing agricultural land due to higher water levels and shifting river courses;
  • Villages at higher elevations report the increasing size of glacier-fed lakes, impacting shoreline habitats and increasing hazards such as flooding and erosion;
  • Increased intensity of rainfall in the spring, concentrated within fewer days and impacting the early growing season and the integrity of built structures and landscape features;
  • Villagers also identified higher frequencies of avalanches and landslides due to new patterns of rainfall;
  • In some villages, ploughing and sowing begins 15 to 30 days earlier than a decade ago, and harvesting also takes place 15 to 30 days earlier;
  • Villagers at higher elevations report that the range of crops is expanding to higher elevations in the mountains, making it possible to grow crops of wheat without the risk of frost damage;
  • Villagers at lower elevations report difficulty producing fruits that require cold days in spring;
  • Villagers report new invasive species or changes in the abundance of indigenous species due to warmer winters; and
  • Nomadic communities report that spring seems like a continuation of winter, and that fodder in high altitude pastures is “burnt,” resulting in animals not gaining the weight necessary to sustain them through the winter.

Contest Guidelines

  • As with all Climate CoLab proposals, the process of creating a proposal is a collaborative effort. Even if you don’t have a fully developed idea, please contribute your ideas so that others may build on and offer constructive comments on other ideas.
  • We seek creative proposals for team projects that include calendars of the human body in a strategy that helps to anticipate and respond to climate change impacts at the scale of individual villages in the Pamir Mountains.  
  • We are open to and encourage proposals that use multiple kinds of modeled and measured ‘data’ – including climate and weather records, remote sensing data, proxies for difficult to measure environmental events like budding, historical accounts, climate projections, and downscaling.  For example, you might use satellite images to examine trends in snow cover, link those trends to variables in climate models, and use IPCC projections of those variables to anticipate future changes in snow cover and its implication for the start of the growing season.
  • Feel free to propose any source of data or insight, and be sure to help people and judges understand why that data is useful and reliable.
  • Proposals will be judged on the basis of feasibility (can you do it?) and applicability (will villagers be able to use and modify it?).  It is critical that you demonstrate the ability to anticipate changes in key seasonal events and processes, perhaps by providing evidence that similar strategies have worked effectively in other regions.
  • Proposed projects should initiate an iterative process that is inexpensive to repeat, scalable, and easy to revise in response to new data. In other words, we want ideas that can be part of the calendars’ continued evolution.
  • Proposals should be clearly articulated and understandable to a diverse global audience.

Proposals should include a description of the team member’s previous experiences and skills collaborating with rural communities and integrating scientific insights with traditional ecological knowledge.

References

Kassam, K-A 2009: Viewing Change Through the Prism of Indigenous Human Ecology: Findings from the Afghan and Tajik Pamirs. Human Ecology, 37, 677–690. (DOI 10.1007/s10745-009-9284-8)

Kassam, K-A., Bulbulshoev, U. & Ruelle, M. 2011. Ecology of time: Calendar of the human body in the Pamir Mountains. Journal of Persianate Studies, 4(2): 146-170. Online: http://www.ingentaconnect.com/content/brill/jps/2011/00000004/00000002/art00003

Kassam, K-A. 2010. Pluralism, resilience, and the ecology of survival: Case studies from the Pamir Mountains of Afghanistan. Ecology & Society, 15 (2): 8. [online] URL: http://www.ecologyandsociety.org/vol15/iss2/art8/.

Kassam, K-A. 2009. Chapter 5: "The Weather Is Going Under" - Human Ecology, Phronesis, and Climate Change in Wainright, Alaska, USA. In Biocultural Diversity and Indigenous Ways of Knowing: Human Ecology in the Arctic. Calgary: University of Calgary Press. Online: http://dspace.ucalgary.ca/handle/1880/47782

Nolin, Anne W. 2012. Perspective on Climate Change, Mountain Hydrology, and Water Resources in the Oregon Cascades, USA. Mountain Research and Development, 32(S1): S35-S46. Online: http://www.bioone.org/doi/full/10.1659/MRD-JOURNAL-D-11-00038.S1

Nolin, Anne W. et al. 2010. Present-day and future contributions of glacier runoff to summertime flows in a Pacific Northwest watershed: Implications for water resources. Water Resources Research, 46, 1-14. (DOI:10.1029/2009WR008968)

Nolin, Anne W. and Christopher Daly. 2006. Notes and Correspondence: Mapping "At Risk" Snow in the Pacific Northwest. Journal of Hydrometeorology, 7, 1164-1171. 

Prizes

Everyone in this contest has the opportunity to do good and share insights with communities at the leading edge of climate change impacts.

Guidelines from Advisors and Fellows

In the Pamir Mountains, which span the border between Afghanistan and Tajikistan, small-scale farmers and herders are key food producers. Traditionally, they have used “calendars of the human body” to anticipate weather patterns and coordinate their activities with seasonal cycles. These calendars are an example of traditional ecological knowledge, a complex, transdisciplinary, place-based, empirically grounded, and action-oriented way of understanding the world. Calendars of the body have been used to guide agricultural practice according to key weather and biological indicators, such as the first budding of a plant or last day of snow cover. These calendars vary from valley to valley because they are well-tuned to varying environmental conditions. For centuries, these calendars enabled the people of the Pamirs to adapt to variability and change in climate. However, as a result of colonialism and conflict throughout the twentieth century, the calendars fell out of use. Now, Pamiris are facing the dramatic local impacts of global climate change. The goal of this contest is to find ways to combine their traditional ecological knowledge with scientific data in order to revitalize calendars of the human body and build anticipatory capacity for climate change. Scientific data can include, but is not limited to the use of: satellite data, regional weather stations, weather forecasts, or climate modeling. The climate events that Pamiris need to prepare for have a wide range of time frames and may relate to: changes in the mean climate (long-term adaptation), year-to-year variability (short-term adaptation), and extreme events (response to individual events such as flooding, late spring freezes, droughts).

Contest Guidelines

Proposals should include a description of the team member’s previous experiences and skills collaborating with rural communities and integrating scientific insights with traditional ecological knowledge.

References

Kassam, K-A 2009: Viewing Change Through the Prism of Indigenous Human Ecology: Findings from the Afghan and Tajik Pamirs. Human Ecology, 37, 677–690. (DOI 10.1007/s10745-009-9284-8)

Kassam, K-A., Bulbulshoev, U. & Ruelle, M. 2011. Ecology of time: Calendar of the human body in the Pamir Mountains. Journal of Persianate Studies, 4(2): 146-170. Online: http://www.ingentaconnect.com/content/brill/jps/2011/00000004/00000002/art00003

Kassam, K-A. 2010. Pluralism, resilience, and the ecology of survival: Case studies from the Pamir Mountains of Afghanistan. Ecology & Society, 15 (2): 8. [online] URL: http://www.ecologyandsociety.org/vol15/iss2/art8/.

Kassam, K-A. 2009. Chapter 5: "The Weather Is Going Under" - Human Ecology, Phronesis, and Climate Change in Wainright, Alaska, USA. In Biocultural Diversity and Indigenous Ways of Knowing: Human Ecology in the Arctic. Calgary: University of Calgary Press. Online: http://dspace.ucalgary.ca/handle/1880/47782

Nolin, Anne W. 2012. Perspective on Climate Change, Mountain Hydrology, and Water Resources in the Oregon Cascades, USA. Mountain Research and Development, 32(S1): S35-S46. Online: http://www.bioone.org/doi/full/10.1659/MRD-JOURNAL-D-11-00038.S1

Nolin, Anne W. et al. 2010. Present-day and future contributions of glacier runoff to summertime flows in a Pacific Northwest watershed: Implications for water resources. Water Resources Research, 46, 1-14. (DOI:10.1029/2009WR008968)

Nolin, Anne W. and Christopher Daly. 2006. Notes and Correspondence: Mapping "At Risk" Snow in the Pacific Northwest. Journal of Hydrometeorology, 7, 1164-1171.