On the Expedition
The apple orchards of the Indian Himalayas are losing ground to climate change. Your observations of plants, bees, and butterflies may help protect the region’s sustainable agriculture.
India’s Kullu Valley, nestled among the Himalayan Mountains, is famous for its apple orchards and farms. As climate change affects the region, however, flowering plants once plentiful in the region are becoming scarce due to biodiversity loss. With fewer flowering plants and high use of pesticides, the number of pollinators such as bees and butterflies are declining. The result: crops are suffering, and farmers must “hire out” bees at significant cost to ensure pollinization. These changes are threatening the future of the region’s traditional sustainable agriculture and the livelihoods of the community.
Earthwatch, together with the Govind Ballabh Pant Institute of Himalayan Environment and Development (GBPIHED), is undertaking a study to better understand the status of biodiversity (vegetation and pollinators) and the impact of climate change on Himalayan agriculture. Researchers are working to determine just how climate change has impacted fragile plant species and to what degree decreased plant biodiversity is reducing the number of pollinators in orchards and fields. Findings from this research will provide critical information about pollinators and which types of crops will grow well under new climatic circumstances, and will also help farmers to select crops and wild plants that can attract pollinators.
As a member of the team, you’ll work outdoors in the magnificent setting of the Himalayan Mountains. You’ll collect vital data about the number and type of wild and cultivated plants growing at different elevations, and observe and record the activities of butterflies and bees. The information you gather will help to develop both regional and national policies for agricultural management in Indian Himalayan Region.
Meals and Accommodations
In the field you will be staying at Hotel Soham Chateaue de Naggar located in the peaceful village of Naggar in Kullu, Himachal Pradesh. You’ll stay in a comfortable room featuring a balcony with a panoramic view of the Himalaya and the river Beas.
Bed tea (tea served to a guest in bed) will be provided in the morning. Breakfast and a buffet dinner are provided at the hotel, where you will have the option of dining with a view of the Himalayas and Kullu Valley. Depending upon the distance to the research site and any changes in the research schedule, you’ll eat lunch at the hotel or take along a packed meal to the research site. You’ll enjoy local vegetarian cuisine, which may include Indian breads, fruits, rice, vegetable dishes, dals (lentils), local curries, salad and pickles. Packed lunches will be sandwiches or puri sabji, etc.
About the Research Area
The Kullu Valley is in the northwest Indian Himalayas, and is part of Himachal Pradesh – the 'Fruit State' of India. Apples are the main cash crop of the state, accounting for more than 80% of total fruit production. Kullu and Shimla District are the major apple producing areas. The area is also known for its historic Buddhist monasteries and temples, its religious festivals, and it’s hot springs.
Kullu, also known as the Valley of the Gods, is perhaps the most delightful region in the western Himalayas. The valley spreads out its charm on either side of the upper reaches of the river Beas. In the spring, Kullu is at its most colorful with pink blossoms and white flowers while the higher slopes are shining with gorgeous red rhododendrons. During summers, the weather is very pleasant and the maximum temperature hardly reaches 30 degrees Celsius in the day, while the nights still retain a bit of chill. Summer is the season when tourists come in a large number. When the rest of India goes through extreme heat, Kullu offers respite, with its cool and calm climate. In winter, the hillsides are white with snow, with the exception of the majestic pines and cedars in the forests.