Invited Seminar at CES on 19 June 2019 at 10:30 am titled "Climate change, forest degradation and the future of Himalayan biodiversity" by Dr. Umesh Srinivasan from Princeton University
Earth is currently undergoing its sixth ever mass extinction, driven primarily by anthropogenic climate change and habitat loss. The biodiversity of the Himalayas is at special risk because of a rate of warming thrice as fast as the global average coupled with rapid forest loss. To conserve the exceptional biodiversity of the Himalayas therefore requires an understanding of how species’ traits (e.g., physiology, behaviour) influence their responses to climate warming and forest loss and degradation (e.g., agriculture, logging). I use a combination of comparative data from the western and eastern Himalayas and long-term demographic data from an intensive study site in the eastern Himalayas to investigate three key research themes: (a) the role of temperature in structuring bird communities (and how species’ thermal niches influence their ability to cope with forest loss), (b) the impacts of selective logging on the survivorship of Himalayan birds, and (c) how synergies between climate change and forest degradation affect the viability of Himalayan bird populations. I will discuss results from these research projects as well as the implications of these results for conservation. I will also discuss future research plans, including recent advances in infra-red imaging technology to measure thermal stress in wild birds, GPS telemetry to investigate the impacts of forest degradation on species’ behaviour, and citizen science as a tool to understand how biodiversity is likely to fare in a warmer and more degraded world.