Greater One-Horned Rhinoceros (Rhinoceros Unicornis) in Nepal in the Context of Climate Change: Vulnerability Assessment and Adaptation Planning

PhD by Publication


Pant, Ganesh. 2022. Greater One-Horned Rhinoceros (Rhinoceros Unicornis) in Nepal in the Context of Climate Change: Vulnerability Assessment and Adaptation Planning. PhD by Publication Doctor of Philosophy. University of Southern Queensland. https://doi.org/10.26192/q7q83
Title

Greater One-Horned Rhinoceros (Rhinoceros Unicornis) in Nepal in the Context of Climate Change: Vulnerability Assessment and Adaptation Planning

TypePhD by Publication
Authors
AuthorPant, Ganesh
Supervisor
1. FirstProf Tek Maraseni
2. SecondProf Armando Apan
2. SecondA/Pr Benjamin Allen
Institution of OriginUniversity of Southern Queensland
Qualification NameDoctor of Philosophy
Number of Pages229
Year2022
PublisherUniversity of Southern Queensland
Place of PublicationAustralia
Digital Object Identifier (DOI)https://doi.org/10.26192/q7q83
Abstract

Climate change has been identified as one of the most serious global concerns over the last few decades. The earth's temperature has increased by nearly 10C over the last 100 years. Likewise, the average global temperature is projected to increase by nearly 20C by the end of the 21st century, threatening biodiversity conservation. Species and ecosystems have already started responding to these changes in temperature and precipitation. Ecological studies have documented spatial and temporal shifts in species distributions in many parts of the world. The shift and contraction of suitable habitat are likely to intensify because of climate change, which may lead to further species extinctions.

Rhinoceros is a megafauna belonging to the family Rhinocerotidae. All five species of rhinoceros surviving in different parts of the world are threatened due to poaching and habitat loss. This includes greater one-horned rhinoceros, hereafter 'rhinoceros' which has specialised habitat and food requirements. Until the middle of the 19th century, rhinoceroses were abundant throughout the Indian sub-continent. The global population of rhinoceros declined to fewer than 500 individuals during the early 1960s due to habitat loss and poaching. Following successful conservation initiatives, its population has been recovering and there are now nearly 3,700 rhinoceros, restricted to a few protected areas in Nepal and India. In Nepal, rhinoceroses were brought back from the brink of extinction during the 1960s and effective anti-poaching strategies have contributed to the increase in the population of this megaherbivore ever since. Whilst habitat loss and poaching remain serious threats to the survival of the rhinoceros, likely adverse impacts of climate change may jeopardise these conservation successes. However, climate change has not been incorporated well into management plans developed to ensure a viable population of rhinoceros in Nepal.

The overarching aim of this study was to assess the climate change vulnerability and explore the possible ways for initiating adaptation planning for rhinoceros conservation in Nepal. We used a combination of qualitative and quantitative research methods including (1) a review of the relevant literature, (2) key informant interviews, (3) stakeholders' consultation workshop, (4) ensemble species distribution modelling, and (5) expert elucidation. First, we developed indicators of climate change vulnerability to the rhinoceros population in Nepal. Based on these indicators, the extent of climate change vulnerability was assessed, and key vulnerability factors were considered before identifying and prioritising adaptation actions. These were identified using available information on spatial distribution, biological traits, and climatic variables. In addition, habitat suitability modelling was performed for current and future climate and land use change scenarios.

The key findings of this research imply that rhinoceroses in Nepal will face a 'moderate' level of climate change vulnerability and over one-third of the current habitat is likely to become unsuitable by the year 2070. The ensemble habitat model estimated an area of 2,610 km2 or 1.77 % of the total area of Nepal to be suitable for rhinoceros, and nearly 35% (924 km2) of which is predicted to be lost under the highest emission scenarios by 2070. We identified 20 adaptation actions for rhinoceros conservation. Of these, identifying and protecting climate refugia, restoring existing habitats through wetland and grassland management, creating artificial highlands in floodplains, and translocating them to other suitable habitats were prioritised more highly over other actions. A variety of caveats to our results exist given the uncertainty inherent in climate models, and the relatively unpredictable responses of rhinoceros to global warming and adaptation interventions.

This research provides insights for protected area managers to implement adaptive management of rhinoceros in Nepal. Besides, it will provide a basis for policymakers to allocate scarce resources into prioritised areas, which will contribute towards ensuring its persistence well into the future. We also recommend further empirical research to provide better insights on the consequences of climate change so that our suggested adaptation actions can be refined in the future. This study is the first of its kind in Nepal, to our knowledge, and is anticipated to be instrumental for initiating climate change adaptation planning. Thus, this research is important not only for rhinoceros but also for sympatric wildlife species that are vulnerable to the likely impacts of climate change.

KeywordsAdaptation Planning, Climate change vulnerability assessment, Correlative approach, Nepal, Rhinoceros, Trait-based approach
Related Output
Has partTrends and current state of research on greater one-horned rhinoceros (Rhinoceros unicornis): a systematic review of the literature over a period of 33 years (1985–2018)
Has partClimate change vulnerability of Asia’s most iconic megaherbivore: greater one-horned rhinoceros (Rhinoceros unicornis)
Has partPredicted declines in suitable habitat for greater one-horned rhinoceros (Rhinoceros unicornis) under future climate and land use change scenarios
Has partIdentifying and prioritising climate change adaptation actions for greater one-horned rhinoceros (Rhinoceros unicornis) conservation in Nepal
Has partDry season diet composition of four-horned antelope Tetracerus quadricornis in tropical dry deciduous forests, Nepal
ANZSRC Field of Research 2020410407. Wildlife and habitat management
Public Notes

File reproduced in accordance with the copyright policy of the publisher/author.

Byline AffiliationsInstitute for Life Sciences and the Environment
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Related outputs

Identifying and prioritising climate change adaptation actions for greater one-horned rhinoceros (Rhinoceros unicornis) conservation in Nepal
Pant, Ganesh, Maraseni, Tek, Apan, Armando and Allen, Benjamin L.. 2022. "Identifying and prioritising climate change adaptation actions for greater one-horned rhinoceros (Rhinoceros unicornis) conservation in Nepal." PEERJ. 10. https://doi.org/10.7717/peerj.12795
Predicted declines in suitable habitat for greater one-horned rhinoceros (Rhinoceros unicornis) under future climate and land use change scenarios
Pant, Ganesh, Maraseni, Tek, Apan, Armando and Allen, Benjamin L.. 2021. "Predicted declines in suitable habitat for greater one-horned rhinoceros (Rhinoceros unicornis) under future climate and land use change scenarios." Ecology and Evolution. 11 (24), pp. 18288-18304. https://doi.org/10.1002/ece3.8421
Climate change vulnerability of Asia’s most iconic megaherbivore: greater one-horned rhinoceros (Rhinoceros unicornis)
Pant, Ganesh, Maraseni, Tek, Apan, Armando and Allen, Benjamin L.. 2020. "Climate change vulnerability of Asia’s most iconic megaherbivore: greater one-horned rhinoceros (Rhinoceros unicornis)." Global Ecology and Conservation. 23, pp. 1-14. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.gecco.2020.e01180
Trends and current state of research on greater one-horned rhinoceros (Rhinoceros unicornis): a systematic review of the literature over a period of 33 years (1985–2018)
Pant, Ganesh, Maraseni, Tek, Apan, Armando and Allen, Benjamin L.. 2020. "Trends and current state of research on greater one-horned rhinoceros (Rhinoceros unicornis): a systematic review of the literature over a period of 33 years (1985–2018)." Science of the Total Environment. 710, pp. 1-14. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.scitotenv.2019.136349
Dry season diet composition of four-horned antelope Tetracerus quadricornis in tropical dry deciduous forests, Nepal
Oli, Chet Bahadur, Panthi, Saroj, Subedi, Naresh, Ale, Gagan, Pant, Ganesh, Khanal, Gopal and Bhattarai, S.. 2018. "Dry season diet composition of four-horned antelope Tetracerus quadricornis in tropical dry deciduous forests, Nepal." PEERJ. 2018 (6), pp. 1-15. https://doi.org/10.7717/peerj.5102