Journal of Mountain Science

, Volume 16, Issue 11, pp 2625–2639 | Cite as

Climate change has more adverse impacts on the higher mountain communities than the lower ones: people’s perception from the northern Himalayas

  • Xiao-hui Huang
  • Yao-zhi ZhouEmail author
  • Jiang-ping Fang
  • Lei Hou


The Himalayas are assumed to experience rapid climate change, with serious environmental, social and economic consequences for people living in and around the mountain area. However, the extent of climate change and its impact on the region are underexplored, especially on northern slope of the mountains. Based on local knowledge, we report perceived changes in climate and consequences of such changes for natural and social systems. The respondents in this study were distributed at a continuous elevation gradient of 3570–4646 m above sea level in the northern Himalayas. Therefore, it is possible to analyze the process of the shift of bioclimate zones under climate change and the differences in climate change effects cross altitudes. Among those in the pastoral area (Zhegu town) with an altitude of 4600 m, 91.2% (n=114) of the respondents believe that the climate is obviously changing; the ratio of reporting rainfall decreasing is 77.2% (n=114); those who perceive delayed rainy season, and increased climate change-related natural disasters account for 38.9% (n=113), 72.8% (n=103), respectively; more than two thirds (70.3%) (n=111) view drought as the biggest challenge to address climate change, and more than half (59.3%) (n=113) of the respondents believe that the impact of climate change is mainly negative. All these data rank first among the four survey areas (Zhegu town/pastoral region, Nedong County/crop growing regions, Zhanang County/crop growing region and Nagarze County/farming-pastoral region). Due to climate warming, Labidura riparia spreads to a higher altitude in the basins in Nedong County (Shannan City, Tibet) and Zhanang County (Shannan City, Tibet) at the rate of 31.1 ± 6.4 m/a and 46.7 ± 8.8 m/a, respectively in elevation. Most of the respondents view the natural variability as the main cause of climate changes, only 10.7%–29.0% among them view human activities as the main reason. Key challenges for local people to address climate change include droughts and economic hardship. Most local perceptions conform to scientific data. Comparative analysis of people’s perception of climate change impacts in different regions of the Himalayas will enhance the understanding of climate change effects on the whole region.


Northern Himalayan Climate change Perception Elevation gradient Tibet 


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This work was funded by Tibet Autonomous region Department of Science and Technology (2016ZR-NZ-01), the Ministry of Science and Technology of China (2016YFC0502006). We thank professor HE Nianpeng and professor JIA Gensuo in Chinese Academy of Sciences for their valuable suggestions. We are also immensely thankful to the farmers who shared their knowledge and information.


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Copyright information

© Science Press, Institute of Mountain Hazards and Environment, CAS and Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany, part of Springer Nature 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Tibet Agriculture & Animal Husbandry UniversityLinzhiChina
  2. 2.Research Institute of Tibet Plateau EcologyTibet Agriculture & Animal Husbandry UniversityLinzhiChina
  3. 3.United Key Laboratories of Ecological SecurityLinzhiChina
  4. 4.Resources & Environment CollegeTibet Agriculture & Animal Husbandry UniversityLinzhiChina

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