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PARTNERSHIPS FOR ENHANCED ENGAGEMENT IN RESEARCH (PEER)
Cycle 5 (2015 Deadline)


JaibikMap: Nepal's biodiversity and climate change tool for the future


PI: Menaka Panta (menaka72@gmail.com), International Union for Conservation of Nature - Nepal
U.S. Partner: Walter Jetz, Yale University

Project Overview:

Nepal, a small, landlocked country in the Himalayan region, boasts an astonishing variety of floral and faunal species due to the diversity of its topography and habitat types. Nepal’s biodiversity is declining due to anthropological stressors, including rapid growth in human population and settlements and human-wildlife conflict; however, the greatest risk to Nepal’s biodiversity lies in a lack of spatially and temporally-sensitive data that reflect potential future changes in habitat composition and distribution due to climate change. Barriers to collecting, analyzing, and sharing information have led to uninformed development, impacting livelihoods.

This PEER project aims to fill existing and future gaps in knowledge supporting the developmental phase of JaibikMap, an interactive, open data, free web-based mapping tool that contains detailed data for addressing conservation and development challenges. The tool will be built on a scalable platform to accommodate additional data layers in the future. Addressing research gaps, project partners will conduct a nationwide study of forest change under different climate change scenarios and then apply these findings to species distribution models predicting shifts in habitats. Furthermore, a mobile application will be developed allowing anyone to upload photos and GPS coordinates to the JaibikMap repository taken during opportunistic sightings of mammal species.

Summary of Recent Events

The PI and her team have completed year one of the project. As at the end of the year, the first phase occurrence data of 149 species have been collected in which 64 species data is completed for modeling process. Currently, works on compiling occurrence points of 19 mammalian species is underway. The meteorological data for entire Nepal have been procured. A final script has been written in R to model the mammalian species distribution using biomod2 package. Based on the errors identified in the previous modeling exercises, some corrections were made to produce the final script. Corrections include the adjustment of number of pseudo absence points used in modeling, inclusion of more complex models and inclusion of rcp 4.5 scenario instead of rcp 2.6. 20 species of small mammals has been already modeled for current and future scenarios. Future scenarios include rcp 4.5 and rcp 8.5 scenarios.

After a series of discussions with project stakeholders, a mockup for the website wire frame has been implemented, and can be accessed using the following link: https://invis.io/58BNZI9ZF#/234350991_1. Through a series of discussions, the team is currently involved in gathering feedback and understanding requirements of the tool. Based on several conceptualization discussions with project team members, there seems to be a general consensus around the guiding principles to keep in mind when designing the tool. Work on identifying methods to render large amounts of geospatial data in web-based application is also underway. Likewise, works on Slicing large geojson data into smaller chunks and displaying them as per requirement ( https: //arkoblog.github.io/topo-render ) using leaflet Vector Grid and creating a vector tile server that serves topojson using tilesplash (https://github.com/faradayio/tilesplash) Is also underway. Besides, brainstorming and designing PostGIS database schema for generated modeling output will be conducted.

One of the main challenges that the PI and her team are experiencing is that the occurrence data of mammalian fauna in Nepal are very scarce and most of the data were collected before the 1980s by the foreign scientist, so current information on small mammals are very scant. Likewise, many research carried out by the different researchers on mega or small mammals have not been published which has also hindered the collection of data. To resolve these issues, potential organization library will be visited to collect the mammalian occurrence data and information like mammal species description, occurrences, distribution, status, habitat requirements and main threats.
The major problem in the modeling front is the biasness of the model outputs arising due to data deficiencies in the far western Nepal. Since very little research has been conducted in this region, the occurrences points are scant as compared to the central and eastern Nepal. Since the occurrences data sets are fundamental to modeling, these data deficiencies will be translated into biased model outputs which will not reflect the true habitat distribution of the species. To this end, rigorous research to collect the mammalian occurrence data will be required.

In the next 3-6 months, the PI and her team are planning on carrying out the following activities:

Rigorous works on collecting mammalian occurrence data will be conducted by visiting potential institution and by communicating with independent researcher.
• Work on updating information on the mammal species description, occurrences, distribution, status, habitat requirements and main threats will be conducted.
• Meteorological data analysis of western and eastern Nepal will be conducted. Potential Evapotranspiration and ratio of potential evapo-transpiration will be calculated and these data will be used in Holdridge Life Zone Analysis to depict latest life zones (vegetation).
• The Climate Change scenario will be analyzed using worldclim data, and matched with the trend of climatic data of 1970-2015.The data of every stations will be employed in Holdridge model, and likely change in life zones will be determined.
• All remaining species will be modeled and the outputs will be further refined.
• The raster outputs will be converted into vector (shape and geojson) format for integration in website.
• Exercises will be conducted to merge the outputs (Holdridge Life Zone Analysis) generated by CDB/TU.
• Works on modifying the Jaibik Map wireframe based on plant species distribution data will be conducted.
• Preliminary results from the project will be presented in conferences and research papers will be drafted (at least 3 preliminary research outputs will be prepared and presented in the national/international conference if additional fund available for the coverage of conference expenses).



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