Skip to main content

Pastoral yak rearing system is changing with change in climate: an exploration of North Sikkimin Eastern Himalaya

Abstract

Yak is an integral part of the livelihood of highlanders in Indian Eastern Himalaya where only subsistence agriculture is possible due to its difficult terrain and harsh climate. The tribal households of Lachen and Lachung in North Sikkim rear yaks at an altitude of 3000 to 5000 m in semi-pastoral system which is highly dependent on temperature and snowfall pattern. Any change in climatic factors is expected to affect the yaks and livelihood of the yak herders. Hence, an explorative study was conducted to understand how the pastoral yak rearing system is changing in the region with change in climate. The estimated temperature increment was 0.03–0.04 °C/annum which is corroborated by herders’ perceptions. They observed that the amount of snowfall has receded, especially in lower altitudes and the snowfall period shifted from November–December to January–March. The commencement of upward migration of yak herders advanced by 15–30 days due to increase in March temperature and the migration span extended by 45 days now. The downward migration is restricted to mid alleviation (2750–3000 m) now which was earlier about 2000 m whereas the upward migration has gone up farther about 500 m due to increasing temperature and unavailability of quality pasture. The study revealed that the pastoral yak rearing in North Sikkim is transforming to cope the impending climate change. However, to reduce the vulnerability of yak, research and extension efforts/policies should be concentrated on fodder production and pasture management suiting to the awaiting climate change.

This is a preview of subscription content, access via your institution.

Fig. 1

Notes

  1. Above mean sea level

References

  • Basnett S, Kulkarni AV (2012) Monitoring the seasonal snow cover in Sikkim Himalaya using remote sensing techniques. In: Arrawatia ML, Tambe S (eds) Climate change in Sikkim: patterns, impacts and initiatives. Information and Public Relations Department, Government of Sikkim, Gangtok, pp 69–80

    Google Scholar 

  • Bawa KS, Ingty T (2012) Climate change in Sikkim: a synthesis. In: Arrawatia ML, Tambe S (eds) Climate change in Sikkim-patterns, impacts and initiatives. Information and Public Relations Department, Government of Sikkim, Ganktok, pp 413–424

    Google Scholar 

  • Beckage B, Osborne B, Gavin DG, Pucko C, Siccama T, Perkins T (2008) A rapid upward shift of a forest ecotone during 40 years of warming in the Green Mountains of Vermont. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the USA 105:4197–4202

    Google Scholar 

  • Cannone N, Sgrobati S, Guglielmin M (2007) Unexpected impacts of climate change on alpine vegetation. Front Ecol Environ 5:360–364

    Google Scholar 

  • Census (2011) Census of India. Government of India, Ministry of Home Affairs, New Delhi

    Google Scholar 

  • Chaudhary P, Bawa K (2011) Local perceptions of climate change validated by scientific evidence in the Himalayas. Biol Lett 7:641–643

    Google Scholar 

  • Collier RJ, Dahl GE, Van Baale MJ (2006) Major advances associated with environmental effects on dairy cattle. J Dairy Sci 89:1244–1253

    Google Scholar 

  • Dimri AP, Dash SK (2011) Wintertime climate trends in the Western Himalayas. Clim Chang 111:775–800. https://doi.org/10.1007/A10584011-0201-y

  • Dirnbock T, Essl F, Rabitsch W (2011) Disproportional risk for habitat loss of high altitude endemic species under climate change. Glob Chang Biol 17:990–996

    Google Scholar 

  • Dong S, Long R, Kang M (2007) Milking performance of China yak (Bosgrunniens): a preliminary report. Afr J Agric Res 2:52–57

    Google Scholar 

  • Forrest JL, Wikramanayake E, Shrestha R, Areendran G, Gyeltshen K, Maheshwari A, Mazumdar S, Naidoo R, Thapa GJ, Thapa K (2012) Conservation and climate change: assessing the vulnerability of snow leopard habitat to treeline shift in the Himalaya. Biol Conserv 150:129–135

    Google Scholar 

  • Gautam HR, Sharma IM, Kumar R (2014) Climate change is affecting apple cultivation in Himachal Pradesh. Curr Sci 106:498–499

    Google Scholar 

  • GoI (2015) Basic animal husbandry & fisheries statistics-2015, Department of Dairy Husbandry & Dairying and Fisheries. Ministry of Agriculture & Farmers Welfare, Government of India. www.dahd.nic.in. Accessed 14 Aug 2018

  • Goswami A, Laha R, Sarma D, Chatlo LR (2013) A report on gastrointestinal parasitic infections in yaks. Indian Journal of Hill Farming 26:42–44

    Google Scholar 

  • Gyamtsho P (2000) Economy of yak herders. Journal of Bhutanese Studies 2:90–135

    Google Scholar 

  • Haynes MA, Kung KJS, Jodi S, Brandt YY, Waller DM (2014) Accelerated climate change and its potential impact on yak herding livelihoods in the eastern plateau. Clim Chang 123:147–160

    Google Scholar 

  • Joshi DD, Lund PN, Miller DJ, Shrestha SK (1994) Yak production in Nepal. In: Zhang C, Han JL, Wu JP (eds). Yak production in Central Asian highlands. Proceedings of the First International Congress on Yak. 1–6 August, 1994, Lanzhou, China. pp. 105–12

  • Kothari R, Upadhya D, Theengh LT, Ghose P, Shrestha P (2017) Climate change vulnerability assessment in snow leopard habitat gateway communities in North Sikkim United States Agency for International Development and World Wildlife Fund, Washington. http://agricoop.nic.in/sites/default/files/SKM2-North%20Sikkim-30.10.12.pdf. Accessed 23 June 2018

  • Krishnan G, Paul V, Hanah SS, Bam J, Das PJ (2016) Effects of climate change on yak production at high altitude. Indian Journal of Animal Sciences 86:621–626

    Google Scholar 

  • Krishnan G, Paul V, Biswas TK, Chouhan VS, Das PJ, Sejian V (2018) Adaptation strategies of yak to seasonally driven environmental temperatures in its natural habitat. Int J Biometeorol 62:1497–1506

    Google Scholar 

  • Kumar B, Prabhu TSM (2012) Impact of climate change: glacier lake outburst floods (GLOFs). In: Arrawatia M, Tambe S (eds) Climate change in Sikkim - patterns, impacts and initiatives. Information and Public Relations Department, Government of Sikkim, Gangtok, pp 81–102

    Google Scholar 

  • Lachungpa U (2011) The forgotten Dokpas of North Sikkim. In: Denjongpa AB, McKay A (eds) Buddhist Himalaya: studies in religion, history and culture, Proceedings of the Golden Jubilee Conference of the Namgyal Institute of Tibetology, Gangtok 2008, pp 191–197

  • Leyborne M, Jaubert R, Tutwiler RN (1993) Changes in migration and feeding patterns among semi-nomadic pastoralists in Northern Syria, Pastoral Development Network Papers 34a. Overseas Development Institute, London

    Google Scholar 

  • Li L, Yang S, Wang Z, Zhu X, Tang H (2010) Evidence of warming and wetting climate over the Qinghai-Tibet plateau. Arct Antarct Alp Res 42:449–457

    Google Scholar 

  • Li M, Ma Y, Li Q, Wang J, Cheng J, Xue J, Shi J (2011) The chemical composition and nitrogen distribution of Chinese yak (Maiwa) milk. Int J Mol Sci 12:4885–4895

    Google Scholar 

  • Liu X, Chen B (2000) Climatic warming in the Tibetan Plateau during recent decades. Int J Climatol 20:1729–1742

    Google Scholar 

  • Maiti S, Jha SK, Garari S, Nag A, Chakravarty R, Kadian KS, Chandel BS, Datta KK, Upadhaya RC (2014) Adapting to climate change: traditional coping mechanism followed by the Brokpa pastoral nomads of Arunachal Pradesh, India. Indian J Tradit Knowl 13:752–761

    Google Scholar 

  • Manderscheid (A) (2001) Decline and re-emergence of nomadism: Tibetan pastoralists revive a nomadic way of life and production. Geo Journal 53:173–182

    Google Scholar 

  • Mondal D, Pal RN (1996) Chemical composition of yak milk. Indian Journal of Dairy Science 49:12

    Google Scholar 

  • Ning W, Oli KP, Gilani H, Joshi S, Bisht N (2016) Yak raising challenges: transboundary issues in far eastern Nepal. In: Ning W, Shaoliang Y, Joshi S, Bisht N (eds) Yak on the move transboundary challenges and opportunities for yak raising in a changing Hindu Kush Himalayan Region. International Centre for Integrated Mountain Development, Nepal, pp 93–112

    Google Scholar 

  • Pal RN (1993a) Domestic yak (Poephagus grunniens L.): a research review. Indian Journal of Animal Science 63:743–753

    Google Scholar 

  • Pal RN (1993b). Halting the decline of the yak population in India. In: More attention to animal genetic resources – Regain d’intérêt pour les resources génétiques animales – Mayor interéspor los recursoszoogeneticos – 76 – 1993/3′. FAO Corporate Documentary Repository,Agriculture and Consumer Protection. (FAO: Rome.). www.fao.org/docrep/v0600t/v0600T00.htm#Contents. Accessed 12 April 2019

  • Pal P, Chatlod LR, Avasthe R, Rahman H, Bandyopadhyay S (2015) Gastrointestinal parasitic infections in yaks at different farms of humid North-East Himalayan region of Sikkim, India. The Indian Journal of Animal Sciences 85(4):373–375

    Google Scholar 

  • Pascale D (2012) Transformation process in nomadic pastoralism in Ladakh, Himalaya. The Journal of the Association for Nepal and Himalayan Studies 32(1):61–72

    Google Scholar 

  • Paudel LN, Parajuli DP (2016) Yak husbandry and rangeland management in Nepal. In: Ning W, Shaoliang Y, Joshi S, Bisht N (eds) Yak on the move transboundary challenges and opportunities for yak raising in a changing Hindu Kush Himalayan Region. International Centre for Integrated Mountain Development, Nepal, pp 137–146

    Google Scholar 

  • Paul V, Maiti S, Singh JP, Ghosh MK, Baruah KK, Chaurasia RS (2010) Geomatics based study of yak rearing tracks of north-eastern Himalayan grasslands. Range Management and Agroforestry (Symposium Issue) A: 107–09

  • Paul V, Maiti S, Krishnan G, Medhi D, Deb SM (2015). Yak rearing on high altitude pastures of northeastern Himalaya of India: their utilization strategies and rejuvenation Proceedings of 23rd International Grassland Congress 2015, New Delhi, India

  • Peters D, Bader D, McKenna, Marconi BM, Shrestha R, Bartlett R, Lesk C, De Mel M, Horton R (2017) Climate change in the snow leopard landscapes of Asia’s high mountains: technical report. Center for Climate Systems Research and Columbia University and WWF-US, New York

    Google Scholar 

  • Philip K, Thornton PJE, Herrero M, Challinor AJ (2014) Climate variability and vulnerability to climate change. Glob Chang Biol 20:3313–3328

    Google Scholar 

  • Rahman H, Pal P, Bandyopadhyay S (2010) Occurrence of gastrointestinal parasites in domestic yaks in Sikkim. Indian Journal of Animal Sciences (3):198

  • Rahman H, Karuppaiyan R, Senapati PC, Ngachan SV, Kumar A (2012) An analysis of past three decade weather phenomenon in the mid-hills of Sikkim and strategies for mitigating possible impact of climate change on agriculture. In: Arrawatia ML, Tambe S (eds) Climate change in Sikkim patterns, impacts and initiatives. Information and Public Relations Department, Government of Sikkim, Gangtok, pp 19–48

    Google Scholar 

  • Ramesha KP, Bhattacharya M (2008) Domestication, distribution and genetic characterization. In: Ramesha KP (ed) Yak moving treasures of the Himalayas. ICAR NRC for Yak, Dirang, Arunachal Pradesh, pp 1–33

    Google Scholar 

  • Robinson P (1993) Indigenous konwledge in yak/cattle crossbreeding and management in high altitude Nepal. In: Tamang D, Gill GJ, Thapa GB (eds.). Indigenous management of natural resources in Nepal. Proceedings of the workshop on indigenous management of agriculture and natural resources, Dhulikhel, Nepal. pp. 139–148

  • SAC (2016) Monitoring snow and glaciers of Himalayan region. Space Applications Centre, ISRO, Ahmedabad, pp 63–65

    Google Scholar 

  • SAPCC (2011) State action plan on climate change. Government of Sikkim, Gangtok, p 14

    Google Scholar 

  • Sharma G, Rai LK (2012) Climate change and sustainability of agrodiversity in traditional farming of the Sikkim Himalaya. In: Arrawatia ML, Tambe S (eds) Climate change in Sikkim patterns, impacts and initiatives. Information and Public Relations Department, Government of Sikkim, Gangtok, pp 193–218

    Google Scholar 

  • Sharma E, Chettri N, Tse-ring K, Shreshta AB, Jing F, Mool P, Eriksson M (2009) Climate change impacts and vulnerabilityin the Eastern Himalayas, ICIMOD, Nepal, Hill Side Press (P) Ltd., Kathmandu, Nepal. www.books.icimod.org. Accessed 14 Feb 2018

  • Sharma G, Tambe S, Rawat GS, Arrawatia ML (2016) Yak herding and associated transboundary issues in the Sikkim Himalayas, India. In: Ning W, Shaoliang Y, Joshi S, Bisht N (eds) Yak on the move transboundary challenges and opportunities for yak raising in a changing Hindu Kush Himalayan Region. International Centre for Integrated Mountain Development, Nepal, pp 93–112

    Google Scholar 

  • Sherpa YD, Kayastha RB (2009) A study of livestock management patterns in Sagarmatha National Park, Khumbu Region: trends as affected by socio-economic factors and climate change. Eng Technol 5(2):110–120

    Google Scholar 

  • Shihong L (1984) The observation on yak’s heat resistance: a research on the utilization and exploitation of grassland in the northwestern part of Sichuan province. Sichuan National Publishing House, Sichuan, pp 171–174

    Google Scholar 

  • Shreshta AB, Wake CP, Mayewski PA, Dibb JE (1999) Maximum temperature trends in the Himalaya and its vicinity: an analysis based on temperature records from Nepal for the period 1971-94. Clim Dev 2:221–232

    Google Scholar 

  • Sulieman HM, Ahmed AGM (2013) Monitoring changes in pastoral resources in eastern Sudan: a synthesis of remote sensing and local knowledge. Pastoralism: Research, Policy and Practice 3:2041–7136. https://doi.org/10.1186/2041-7136-3-22 Accessed 23rd August 2016

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Telwala Y, Brook BW, Manish K, Pandit MK (2013) Climate-induced elevational range shifts and increase in plant species richness in a Himalayan biodiversity epicentre. PLoS One 8(2):e57103. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0057103

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Wangchuk K, Wangdi J (2015) Mountain pastoralism in transition: consequences of legalizing Cordyceps collection on yak farming practices in Bhutan. Pastoralism: Research, Policy and Practice 5:4. https://doi.org/10.1186/s13570-015-0025-x

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Wangchuk D, Dhammasaccakarn W, Tepsing P, Sakolnakarn TPN (2013) The yaks: heart and soul of the Himalayan tribes of Bhutan. Journal of Environmental Research and Management 3:189–196

    Google Scholar 

  • West JW (1999) Nutritional strategies for managing the heat stressed dairy cows. J Anim Sci 77:21–35

    Google Scholar 

  • West JW (2003) Effects of heat stress on production in dairy cattle. J Dairy Sci 86:2131–2144

    Google Scholar 

  • Wiener G, Jianlin H, Ruijun L (2003) The yak, 2nd edn. FAO Regional Office for Asia and the Pacific, Bangkok

    Google Scholar 

  • Zeng W, Chen Y (1980) Yak in ancient China. Journal of China Yak 1:71–74

    Google Scholar 

  • Zhang RC (2000) Ecology and biology of yak living in Qinghai-Tibetan Plateau: recent advances in yak reproduction, In: Zhao XX, Zhang RC (eds) International veterinary information service, Ithaca, New York, US. https://www.ivis.org. Accessed 24 Mar 2018

Download references

Acknowledgments

The paper is derived from Indian Council of Social Science Research funded project on Climate change impacts on hill agriculture in the North Eastern Himalayas: A Socio-economic Analysis.

Author information

Authors and Affiliations

Authors

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Sheikh Mohammad Feroze.

Additional information

Publisher’s note

Springer Nature remains neutral with regard to jurisdictional claims in published maps and institutional affiliations.

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Verify currency and authenticity via CrossMark

Cite this article

Feroze, S.M., Ray, L.I.P., Singh, K.J. et al. Pastoral yak rearing system is changing with change in climate: an exploration of North Sikkimin Eastern Himalaya. Climatic Change 157, 483–498 (2019). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10584-019-02551-1

Download citation

  • Received:

  • Accepted:

  • Published:

  • Issue Date:

  • DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/s10584-019-02551-1