Butterflies and Bees in the Indian Himalayas

The apple orchards of the Indian Himalayas are losing ground to climate change. Your observations of plants, bees, and butterflies may help protect the region’s sustainable agriculture.

India’s Kullu Valley, nestled among the Himalayan Mountains, is famous for its apple orchards and farms. As climate change affects the region, however, flowering plants once plentiful in the region are becoming scarce due to biodiversity loss. With fewer flowering plants and high use of pesticides, the number of pollinators such as bees and butterflies are declining. The result: crops are suffering, and farmers must “hire out” bees at significant cost to ensure pollinization. These changes are threatening the future of the region’s traditional sustainable agriculture and the livelihoods of the community.

Earthwatch, together with the Govind Ballabh Pant Institute of Himalayan Environment and Development (GBPIHED), is undertaking a study to better understand the status of biodiversity (vegetation and pollinators) and the impact of climate change on Himalayan agriculture. Researchers are working to determine just how climate change has impacted fragile plant species and to what degree decreased plant biodiversity is reducing the number of pollinators in orchards and fields. Findings from this research will provide critical information about pollinators and which types of crops will grow well under new climactic circumstances, and will also help farmers to select crops and wild plants that can attract pollinators.

As a member of the team, you’ll work outdoors in the magnificent setting of the Himalayan Mountains. You’ll collect vital data about the number and type of wild and cultivated plants growing at different elevations, and observe and record the activities of butterflies and bees. The information you gather will help to develop both regional and national policies for agricultural management in Indian Himalayan Region.

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What to Expect?

Because of its remarkable plant diversity, the Himalayan region has been named one of 34 official Global Biodiversity hotspots. The Kullu Valley, a major agricultural center in the Indian Himalayan Region (IHR), forms a significant part of this hotspot. Agriculture in the IHR is largely sustainable, but its success depends upon the ability of farmers to pollinate their crops.

To date, few major studies have focused on the plant species of the region due to which the region has been declared as ‘Data Deficit’ by IPCC. In addition, no studies to date have focused specifically on the role of declining Himalayan plant biodiversity on pollinators and the future of sustainable agriculture. This lack of knowledge limits the ability of the Indian Government to make meaningful policy decisions relative to agriculture and farming practices.

This Earthwatch project, based in the Kullu Valley, is part of a larger research study focused on pollinators in the IHR. Two additional studies in the Sikkim and Uttarakhand areas of the IHR will explore the status of pollinators for cucumbers, mustard, and cardamom, all of which are major sustainable crops in the region. Data collected from these three locations will form the basis of a regional plan for managing sustainable agriculture in a changing climate.

As an Earthwatch participant, you’ll be a part of the research team. You’ll assess and net capture bees and butterflies seen while walking set paths through apple orchards. You’ll also assess species diversity by recording tree, shrub, and herb leafing, flowering, and fruiting, helping to create a pollinization calendar for the region. In the lab, you’ll analyze soil samples and record and input data. After fieldwork is complete, you will have the opportunity to ask questions and discuss any data-collection issues.

In addition to your volunteer work, project coordinators have set up opportunities for meeting local beekeepers, hiking, and exploring sights such as Naggar Castle, local temples, and museums.

  • Program ID: # 2308
  • duration:
    2 Weeks to 1 Month
  • location:
    Himachal Pradesh, India Himachal Pradesh
    India
    32° 3' 18.36" N, 77° 4' 51.06" E
    IN
  • Fitness level:
    Moderately Fit
  • Closest Airport:
    Please contact program
  • Costs From:
    Over $3000
  • Program Type:
    Environmental & Wildlife Programs
  • Click Here for More Info

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