Date of Award


Document Type

Campus Access Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Biology/Environmental Biology

First Advisor

Kamaljit S. Bawa

Second Advisor

Rick Kesseli

Third Advisor

Robert D. Stevenson


For millennia, mountains, biodiversity, and humans have been inherently interlinked and mutually beneficial to one another. The relationship among mountains, biodiversity and people is not only limited to the exchange of the goods and services, but also has social, cultural, and spiritual dimensions. This interconnection is more pronounced in the Himalaya where people are largely dependent on traditional economic activities, such as agriculture, livestock farming, and extraction of natural resources, for their livelihoods. Sandwiched between two emerging economies and the most populous countries of the world, China and India, the Himalayan region is undergoing unprecedented environmental changes such as land use change, and ensuing biodiversity loss, increased pollution, and climate change. Therefore, understanding the relationship between mountains, biodiversity, and people in the age of global change has become critical now more than ever.

To address the ongoing environmental changes in the Himalaya, reduce ecosystems vulnerability, avoid biodiversity loss and secure local livelihoods, a multidisciplinary and multi scale approach of research or knowledge generation is necessary that can link livelihoods with biodiversity conservation and environmental sustainability. My studies described in this dissertation seek to: a) understand the interconnections between mountains, biodiversity, and human beings through a case of natural resource dependent mountain communities of the Himalaya who harvest caterpillar fungus (Ophiocordyceps sinensis) for their livelihoods and b) measure the undergoing environmental changes in the Himalaya at a regional scale, by quantifying changes in temperature and precipitation and the impact of these changes on ecosystems, primarily vegetation phenology, and on the distribution of caterpillar fungus under future climate change scenarios. At a local scale, the study examines the economic importance of caterpillar fungus in household and national economies and documents the trends in trade and harvest of caterpillar fungus. I also document the harvesters' perceptions of population status, causes of decline if any, and experiences in sustainable management of caterpillar fungus, and discuss the future prospect of resource sustainability and human wellbeing in the Himalaya at the time of climate change.


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