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Pamir Mountains Challenge – Hosted by ClimateCoLab

Category: Climate

Who We Are

The Pamir Mountains challenge seeks to generate ideas about how Earth science research and observations can help recalibrate traditional ecological calendars for a changing climate. On Tuesday, 27 January 2015, project advisor, Dr. Karim-Aly Kassam, in partnership with The Thriving Earth Exchange, provided an overview of the challenge, followed by a question and answer period from viewers.


What We Aim to Achieve

The goal of this contest is to find ways to use both traditional and scientific knowledge to adapt the calendars and anticipate the effects of climate change. Relevant data can include, but are not limited to: satellite data, snow and ice observations, historical records, climate model output, stories, and local observations. 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).

Why is it Important?

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.

There are two ways to get involved in the challenge:

  • Share an Idea you have. The best way to do this is to create a proposal. All ideas, from all relevant fields, are welcome.
  • Add to Discussions on proposals that have been submitted. Here are the proposals we have had so far:

1. Co-creating calendars with agricultural services extension

2. Agricultural tips on radio and mobiles

3. Biodiversity collections as tools for understanding changes in the Pamir Mountains

4. Generations working together: Elders, farmers, children and adaptation

5. Crowdsourcing via SMS service

6. Possible partners: Centro Internacional de Agricultura Tropical

7. Game to promote/teach body calendars



What Have We Achieved So Far?

The contest on ClimateCoLab will remain live until June 2015. Votes for each proposal will count towards taking each idea to the next stage. Keep up to date with new proposals and discussions by viewing the contest.

- 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.

- Kassam, K-A. 2010. Pluralism, resilience, and the ecology of survival: Case studies from the Pamir Mountains of Afghanistan. Ecology & Society, 15 (2): 8

- Kassam, K-A. 2009. Chapter 5: "The Weather Is Going Under" - Human Ecology, Phronesis, and Climate Change in Wainright, Alaska, USA. InBiocultural Diversity and Indigenous Ways of Knowing: Human Ecology in the Arctic. Calgary: University of Calgary Press

- 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

- 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.

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

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