CEDAR was established as a research based agency to facilitate better quality, more relevant and actionable research on the Himalaya with particular reference to Himalayan forests. While early interventions focused on forests and allied areas, since 2013 CEDAR has increasingly broadened its scope of work. In order to focus and give direction to the range of research activities undertaken by CEDAR, we have identified 4 key research thematic areas that seek to address the needs of our society. Today, our work can be broadly grouped into these thematic areas :-
1. Forest and Humans
Forests, in particular Himalayan forests and their interaction with humans form the first general theme of CEDAR. Impacts of human disturbance, sustainable management, valuation and ecosystem services are all components of this theme. On a macro scale the impacts of climate change on mountain ecosystems also forms an area of interest for CEDAR. In order to obtain better spatial and temporal data CEDAR has been establishing permanent plots across disturbance and altitudinal gradients in the Western Himalayan region.
Thematic lead: Rajesh Thadani, Executive Director
2. Urbanisation and Water
A rapid change in settlement and population patterns in the Himalaya has been fueled by uneven development, differential allocation of resources and urbanization. A movement away from rural areas and an agriculture-animal husbandry based economy to towns and cities both within and outside the Himalaya characterize economic development and migration patterns. Himalayan towns and cities traditionally showed higher levels of self-sufficiency compared to urban agglomerations of the plains. A dependence on springs and small streams and rivers for water; on nearby fields for a larger proportions of food, a broader and more diverse resource base and lower trade with the outside world compared to towns in the plains characterized hill towns. This is now changing. Cedar began its understanding of urbanization through the lens of water supply and how nearby more sustainable sources of water were being replaced by more energy intensive and distant water sources. This theme has become a dominant area of Cedar’s intervention and attempt to understand mountain systems.
Thematic lead: Vishal Singh, Coordinator
3. Climate Change Adaptation
People dependent on natural ecosystems are going to be most vulnerable to any adverse change in climate. In Himalayan region forest based agriculture is the mainstay of livelihoods, a large portion of population practice hill agriculture and whose vulnera¬bility is expected to increase on account of changing climate. The Himalayan region more frequently affected by extreme events that cause disasters. Mountain people, particularly the disadvantaged and marginalised groups, suffer from increasing poverty, natural hazards, deprivation and socioeconomic conflicts. Climate change is likely to exacerbate these challenges. Climate change, natural hazards and other forces threaten the functioning of the complex web of life and livelihoods that mountains support. Moreover, the depletion of snow reserves and degradation of watersheds are reducing water availability and increasing conflicts over dwindling natural resources and supplies. These changes will be felt most immediately by poor and isolated mountain communities, who have little capacity to cope with and adapt to these changes. Under this thematic area CEDAR aims to bridge the gap between research and policy and practice, contribute towards to understand the seasonal and sectoral impacts of climate change and strengthen adaptive capacities of vulnerable communities through collaborations with grass root organisations in a planned manner.
Thematic lead: Vishal Singh, Coordinator
4. Wildlife, People and Land-Use Change
The Himalayas harbour rich faunal diversity, both due to the spatial heterogeneity of ecosystems as well as diverse human and biogeographic influences. Zoological surveys aimed at understanding faunal diversity patterns in the human-dominated forested landscapes of the Himalayas are necessary for initiating conservation planning in this region. Recently, large-scale studies of the effect of land use change and ecosystem modification- due to expanding roads, dams and tourist resorts, pine invasion, horticultural expansion and forest over-exploitation- have been initiated by CEDAR using the rich birdlife as indicator taxa. Currently the study is being undertaken in the Western (Kumaon) and Eastern Himalayas (Meghalaya), based in the middle altitudes which are densely populated zones significant for both livelihoods and biodiversity. A long-term monitoring approach is being adopted so that trends in local extinction and adaptation of bird species can be tracked. It is hoped that such a quantitative, landscape-based methodology can provide useful input for judicious land use planning and wildlife policy in the Himalayan states.
Thematic Lead: Ghazala Shahabuddin, Senior Fellow