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Climate adaptation, institutional change, and sustainable livelihoods of herder communities in northern Tibet

Jun Wang, Peking University Shenzhen Graduate School, Key Laboratory for Human and Environmental Science and Technology, Shenzhen, China
Yang Wang, National Climate Center, China Meteorological Administration, Beijing, China
Shuangcheng Li, College of Urban and Environmental Sciences, Peking University, Beijing, China
Dahe Qin, National Climate Center, China Meteorological Administration, Beijing, China

DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.5751/ES-08170-210105

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Abstract

The Tibetan grassland social-ecological systems are widely held to be highly vulnerable to climate change. We aim to investigate livelihood adaptation strategies of herder households and the types of local institutions that shaped those adaptation strategies. We examined the barriers and opportunities for strengthening adaptive capacity of local herder communities. We designed and implemented a household survey in the herder communities of northern Tibet. The survey results showed that migratory grazing has become less feasible. Storage, diversification, and market exchange have become the dominant adaptation strategies. The adaptation strategies of local herders have been reshaped by local institutional change. Local governmental and market institutions played the dominant roles in reshaping climate adaptation strategies. Although the present livelihood adaption strategies related to sedentary grazing have improved productivity and profitability of the herding livelihood, they have led to continuous deterioration of pastures. The local grazing system has become more and more dependent on artificial feeding and inputs from outside the grazing system. Purchasing forage has become one of the dominant adaptation strategies of local herder households. Multilevel regression modeling of this adaptation behavior showed that explanatory variables related to climate variability, household capital, and local institutional arrangements had statistically significant relationships with the adoption of this adaptation strategy. The results implies that building household capital and promoting the coordination among local governmental, market, and communal institutions are critical for strengthening adaptive capacity of the Tibetan herder communities.

Key words

climate adaptation; herder communities; institutional change; sustainable livelihoods; Tibetan Plateau

Copyright © 2016 by the author(s). Published here under license by The Resilience Alliance. This article  is under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License.  You may share and adapt the work for noncommercial purposes provided the original author and source are credited, you indicate whether any changes were made, and you include a link to the license.

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Ecology and Society. ISSN: 1708-3087