CNH: Feedbacks Between Human Community Dynamics and Socio-ecological Vulnerability in a Biodiversity Hotspot

Project Details

Investigators: Scott T. Yabiku, PI, Dirgha J. Ghimire, MI Subcontract PI.

Description: In many settings, invasive alien species are one of the most dangerous threats to both human and natural systems. All human societies benefit from a variety of ecosystem services provided by the natural system in which they are embedded. Common ecosystem services include energy from solar and hydropower, food and water, waste treatment, pollination-the list is vast. The degree of degradation to ecosystem services depends on the setting and the biological features of the invader, but in some cases these degradations are serious. Mikania micrantha, sometimes called bitter vine or mile-a-minute plant, is one of these. It is among the world's 100 worst invasive alien species (Invasive Species Specialist Group, 2010) and frequently appears in lists of the 10 worst weeds in the world. It is exceptionally fast growing, competes with native flora, and can severely disrupt ecosystem services. When an aggressive invader has been established in a biodiversity hotspot, the threats are exceptionally high. Mikania micrantha in the Chitwan area of Nepal exemplifies this crisis.

This project features a unique combination of research to understand a threat to a human and natural system as well as the development of an intervention to mitigate that threat. The project has four objectives:
1. Examine the relationships between important human community-level organizations, agricultural forest use, and invasive alien species in Nepal's Chitwan National Park and nearby community forest, buffer zone, and settled areas.
2. Create and evaluate an intervention to slow invasive alien species, with an emphasis on Mikania micrantha.
3. Use agent-based modeling techniques to synthesize new and existing findings and evaluate future scenarios of invasive alien species and adaptive management efforts.
4. Educate and train a new cohort of junior scholars for interdisciplinary environmental careers by deeply involving them in this important international research.

Sponsor: NSF. BCS 1211498. $664,318. 2012-2017.