Aligning Trends in Climatic Parameters and Nomads’ Indigenous Knowledge about Climate Change in Central Iran (Case Study: Semirom Town)

Razieh Saboohi aDepartment of Rangeland and Watershed Management, Gorgan University of Agriculture and Natural Resources, Gorgan, Iran

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Hossein Barani aDepartment of Rangeland and Watershed Management, Gorgan University of Agriculture and Natural Resources, Gorgan, Iran

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Morteza Khodagholi bRangeland Research Division, Research Institute of Forests and Rangelands, Agricultural Research, Education and Extension Organization, Tehran, Iran

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Ahmad Abedi Sarvestani cFaculty of Agriculture Management, Gorgan University of Agriculture and Natural Resources, Gorgan, Iran

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Asghar Tahmasebi dHuman Geography Group, Faculty of Geographical Sciences, Kharazmi University, Tehran, Iran

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Hart Nadav Feuer fDivision of Natural Resource Economics, Kyoto University, Kyoto, Japan

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Abstract

Nomadic pastoral communities are considered some of the most vulnerable to climate change. While Indigenous knowledge can play an effective role in mitigating or responding to some impacts of climate change, the extent of their capacity to adapt their livestock and rangeland management is under question. This research aims to assess the scope and applicability of climate change–related knowledge acquired in the management of summer rangeland, with a case study in Semirom, Isfahan Province, Iran. To do so, objective weather conditions (precipitation, minimum temperatures, and maximum temperatures) were evaluated using the Mann–Kendall nonparametric test and compared with subjective evaluations by nomad community members. Specifically, the study targeted a community of 7700 members of the Qashqai, a conglomeration of nomadic tribes in Iran. Their understanding of the weather was evaluated using focus groups and self-administered questionnaires, with a descriptive approach to data analysis. The findings of the climatic investigation revealed a possible shift in the climate in the study area, particularly in winter and autumn. The findings of subjective evaluation showed similar changes in wind, precipitation, and temperature to be the main characteristics of climate change in the region, with about 90% of informants directly citing decreasing precipitation and increasing temperature and wind speeds. The community evaluation also highlighted some adaptations to climate change, such as delays in beginning the seasonal migration, increased reliance on concrete homes, reservoir construction, decreasing livestock yields, and increasing diversification of resources to feed livestock. Understanding the perceptions of nomadic pastoralists, their meteorological basis, and ongoing climate adaptations can facilitate governmental planning.

© 2022 American Meteorological Society. For information regarding reuse of this content and general copyright information, consult the AMS Copyright Policy (www.ametsoc.org/PUBSReuseLicenses).

Corresponding author: R. Saboohi, razieh_saboohi@yahoo.com

Abstract

Nomadic pastoral communities are considered some of the most vulnerable to climate change. While Indigenous knowledge can play an effective role in mitigating or responding to some impacts of climate change, the extent of their capacity to adapt their livestock and rangeland management is under question. This research aims to assess the scope and applicability of climate change–related knowledge acquired in the management of summer rangeland, with a case study in Semirom, Isfahan Province, Iran. To do so, objective weather conditions (precipitation, minimum temperatures, and maximum temperatures) were evaluated using the Mann–Kendall nonparametric test and compared with subjective evaluations by nomad community members. Specifically, the study targeted a community of 7700 members of the Qashqai, a conglomeration of nomadic tribes in Iran. Their understanding of the weather was evaluated using focus groups and self-administered questionnaires, with a descriptive approach to data analysis. The findings of the climatic investigation revealed a possible shift in the climate in the study area, particularly in winter and autumn. The findings of subjective evaluation showed similar changes in wind, precipitation, and temperature to be the main characteristics of climate change in the region, with about 90% of informants directly citing decreasing precipitation and increasing temperature and wind speeds. The community evaluation also highlighted some adaptations to climate change, such as delays in beginning the seasonal migration, increased reliance on concrete homes, reservoir construction, decreasing livestock yields, and increasing diversification of resources to feed livestock. Understanding the perceptions of nomadic pastoralists, their meteorological basis, and ongoing climate adaptations can facilitate governmental planning.

© 2022 American Meteorological Society. For information regarding reuse of this content and general copyright information, consult the AMS Copyright Policy (www.ametsoc.org/PUBSReuseLicenses).

Corresponding author: R. Saboohi, razieh_saboohi@yahoo.com

1. Introduction

The last century has witnessed an increase of 1°C in temperature, in which minimum temperature increased more rapidly than maximum temperature (Vose et eal. 2005). This has altered the spatial pattern and rate of precipitation, sunlight (affecting photosynthesis), and cloud cover (Babai Fini et eal. 2014). According to predictions of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC 2007), the global mean temperature is projected to increase between 1.8° and 4°C by 2100. It is also estimated that an increase of temperature between 1.5° and 2.5°C would lead to the extinction of 20%–30% of the existing animal and plant species, while exacerbating food insecurity in developing countries (FAO 2007). In addition, climate change has increased flood risk and drought occurrence, while compromising the integrity and resilience of natural ecosystems, human societies, and economic systems (Önöy and Bayazit 2003).

As global warming becomes a more tangible worldwide concern, it has become increasingly important to evaluate its impact on populations of interest, with the aim of tracking the lived experience of climate change and proactively helping vulnerable groups. In the literature, a large number of studies have assessed the trends of climate change, indicating increasing temperatures and fluctuations in precipitation at both the national level (e.g., Nazeri Tahrudi et eal. 2016; Salahi 2016; Abtahi et eal. 2014; Gharekhani et eal. 2013; Modares and Khodagholi 2009) and international level (e.g., Niguse Beyene 2016; Rauf et eal. 2016; Thenmozhi and Kottiswaran 2016; Mekonnen and Disse 2016; Sarkar et eal. 2015; Osman et eal. 2014; Saboohi et eal. 2012; Soltani et eal. 2011). Beyond these macrolevel shifts are numerous microlevel changes faced, and ultimately managed, by local people whose livelihoods depend on natural resources.

Indigenous knowledge is likely to play an essential role in promoting sustainable development by spurring unique adaptations and leading actors of an ecosystem to play more active roles in the recognition and management of new challenges in their environments. Enlisting local people is an urgent matter, as humans obtain more than 99.7% of their calories from terrestrial land (as compared with less than 0.3% from water bodies). More than a decade prior, Pimentel (2006) documented that about 10 million ha of cropland are lost every year due to soil erosion, a loss of land for food production that has likely continued to increase. Degradation of forests and rangelands and water resource shortage further complicate the situation faced in crop cultivation. Iran, whose population is estimated to rise to 100 million by 2050 (Pimentel 2006), will face many of these challenges, as its food security depends on climate-vulnerable rural and nomadic communities. In particular, rangeland and agricultural areas have been severely threatened by accelerated soil erosion and vegetation cover loss (Forests, Range and Watershed Management Organization of Iran 2002). At the same time, the per capita water availability of Iranians will decrease to 816 m3 by 2025 (Karimi 2018; Hayati and Valizadeh 2021). These conditions would lead to a simultaneous increasing demand for food coinciding with degradation of the natural resource base underlying food productivity. This concerning trend needs to be addressed within the context of sustainable strategies in natural resource management as well as rural and nomadic development, among which is the leveraging of Indigenous knowledge and participation of rural and nomadic people in shaping environmental policy (Forests, Range and Watershed Management Organization of Iran 2002).

Despite a few fundamental epistemological differences, formal scientific knowledge and Indigenous knowledge about agriculture share many commonalities. In many disciplines, Indigenous knowledge pioneered formal knowledge (Vejdani 2002). A review of demand evaluation methods and approaches showed that paying attention to Indigenous knowledge complements formal knowledge by helping to unify local environmental knowledge with objective observations in mutually reinforcing ways (Marshall 2020). For example, the application of Indigenous knowledge mitigates the risk of using new technology because locally endorsed technologies have a lower performance uncertainty and higher acceptance than externally imposed technologies (Saberi and Karami Dehkordi 2014). Another area of particular interest in this research is the potential for combined evaluation of climate by Indigenous and external observers.

Marin (2010) showed that local-scale changes in climate can be analyzed and predicted by integrating the observations of climate change made by Indigenous inhabitants and climatic data collected by synoptic stations. A comparative analysis between these two sources provided valuable information for formulating more accurate and relevant management policies. Kijazi et eal. (2013) interviewed 120 people from rural constituencies in Tanzania and found that 83% of responders were endemically aware of climate change. The flora phenology, especially that of mango trees, was recognized as the most widely used indicator. A good consistency was also found between the predicted and observed seasonal rainfall in 2011 and 2012. Enock (2013) showed that flora phenology has been widely utilized by societies in Africa to predict seasonal rainfall. For instance, the early blooming of trees from July to November indicates that the region will receive more seasonal rainfall. The occurrence of this phenomenon in 2009 and 2010 coincided with weather forecasts that predicted normal and above-normal seasonal rainfall for that period of time. The results of this study also suggest that the accuracy of predictions may be further improved if we systematically measure, manage, and integrate Indigenous knowledge into common prediction systems.

Going beyond prediction and assessment, Indigenous knowledge and practice can also be leveraged to develop climate adaptation approaches. Studies evaluating the perception and knowledge of informants about climate change also reveal vernacular responses, including Codjoe et eal. (2014), Hsiang and Burke (2014), Tahmasebi (2012), Leiserowitz et eal. (2010), and Hartman and Sugulle (2009). These studies provide evidence that climate change and drought have disproportionate economic and social impacts on peoples who are strongly dependent on natural resources, especially nomadic pastoralists. They also showed how different societies, regardless of the level of formal education, develop a nuanced perception of climate change and are able to derive adaptive strategies to cope with its consequences. Such adaptation to the unpredictable, seasonal, and variable effects of climate change on natural resources is one of the primary challenges to nomadic pastoralists and their lifestyle, and has been reported in numerous studies, including Tapper (1979), Ehlers and Schetter (2001), and Tahmasebi (2012).

The rangelands of Isfahan Province, Iran, which are used as summer rangelands by many pastoralists are indicative of the challenges facing nomadic pastoralists in the age of climate change. The area of the rangelands, estimated to be about 6.72 × 106 ha, is composed largely of summer rangelands (3.04 × 106 ha). In addition to their scope, the rangelands of Isfahan have a high density and diversity of vegetation of high forage value and are mostly found in mountainous areas that, due to limited accessibility, are less prone to land-use/land-cover change (Saeidfar and Rasti 2000). According to the Iranian Census Bureau, about 51 063 persons (representing 9232 families) rely on these rangelands, making them one of the main centers for producing forage for nomadic livestock in the country.

The large scope of this region and the extent to which it has already faced diverse impacts of climate change makes the rangelands of Isfahan a suitable context for addressing the capacity of Indigenous knowledge to recognize, predict, and interact with climate variability. Although some degree of adaptation to climate change is captured in the studied area, this paper focuses primarily on the capacity of nomadic pastoralists to understand and predict climate variability, and to plan around it. To this end, we pose two broad questions in this research:

  1. Have nomadic pastoralists developed a clear understanding of climate change?

  2. Is there consistency between the Indigenous knowledge about climate change and climatic data of weather stations?

2. Materials and methods

a. Studied area

Semirom area/township in the south of Isfahan Province, central Iran, was selected as the study area. With an area of about 5224 km2, this region is located in the central part of Iran (Fig. 1). Semirom township accounts for 9.4% of the total area of Isfahan Province, making up the southeastern slopes of Zagros Mountain Range. As a consequence of its geography, Semirom has a relatively high mean altitude of about 2400 m above sea level, extending from Baktiari Zard-Kooh Mountain in the east to the Dena hillside in the south. Four well-known Iranian Qashqai tribes living in the cold climatic regions of the province were studied: Darre Shorei, Amaleh, Shesh Blocki, and Farsimadan. According 20 years of climatic data recorded by the Semirom synoptic station (1996–2016), mean annual precipitation, temperature, and wind of the study area are 517 mm, 13.5°C, and 3.2 kt (1 kt ≈ 0.51 m s−1), respectively.

Fig. 1.
Fig. 1.

Location of study area in Isfahan Province, central Iran.

Citation: Weather, Climate, and Society 14, 3; 10.1175/WCAS-D-21-0041.1

b. Climate database

Data observation from synoptic and climatology stations inside and adjacent to Semirom were used to build a climate database. The databases selected for use cover adequate periods and feature the least missing data (Table 1). The climate data include monthly and annual precipitation, mean temperature, mean maximum temperature, and mean minimum temperature. Based on the De Martonne classification system, given in Fig. 2, most of the region is classified as semiarid.

Fig. 2.
Fig. 2.

Map of climatic zones of Semirom based on the De Martonne classification system.

Citation: Weather, Climate, and Society 14, 3; 10.1175/WCAS-D-21-0041.1

Table 1

Characteristics of meteorological stations used in this research.

Table 1

3. Methods

To create a baseline of climate data, from which to evaluate Indigenous weather predictions, climate data from stations with long-term meteorological measurements, with precipitation and temperature trends assessed using Mann–Kendall nonparametric test (Hameed et eal. 1997; Yue and Wang 2004).

Inferential statistics were employed in this study to evaluate the role of Indigenous knowledge in recognizing climate changes in the summer rangelands in Semirom. The studied Qashqai clans, Darreh Shori, Amaleh, Shesh Blocki, and Farsimadan, are widely distributed throughout Semirom. The Darreh Shori settled in the center and northwest of Semirom City in Solak village, Mahdi Abad village, and Qarmabad village; the Shesh Blocki settled in the east around Keykhah and Qarmook Grave; the Farsimadan settled in the south and southwest in foothills of the mountains and Dena’s Peak; and the Amaleh settled in the west near the Illan–Dareh and Poshteh tribes. The Farsimadan and Amaleh clans reside in high-altitude areas, whereas Darreh Shori and Shesh Blocki are found in lower-altitude areas. The summer rangelands (yaylak) of Semirom used by the Qashqai tribe are estimated to be 508 457 ha and, according to Isfahan Province Natural Resources Department (as of 2012), consist of 334 traditional grazing territories (yurt or encampments) representing over 7672 pastoral households. Because of the large number of encampments, it is unrealistic to study all at once, so 40 encampments were selected using the purposive random sampling method. Then various informants were chosen through meeting with the tribal councils, leading to a selection of 56 leaders and elders from different clans. In this study, we talked to the elders, and they introduced us to the people of the tribe. Also, one of the authors of the article was from the Qashqai tribe; he introduced us to the elders, and in this way we were able to satisfy them.

In addition, focus groups were conducted with expert groups from various disciplines. Most natural resources experts were agricultural research centers and natural resources and nomadic affairs, and the majority of them studied natural resources and agriculture. According to these preliminary interviews, a questionnaire was developed to assess nomadic pastoralists’ understanding about, and their responses to, climate change. The questionnaire includes 26 questions about climate change and 12 questions concerning their responses. The validity of the questionnaire was verified with external experts. Corresponding to the number of potential participants in the study area, 402 questionnaires were completed. In this step of the research, the effect of demographic factors was also assessed, including age, sex, education, and geography. To this end, the Mann–Whitney test (Nachar 2008; Pingale et eal. 2016) was adopted to analyze the effect of two different groupings of each demographic factor: age by young and middle-aged (aged less than 50 years), and elder (aged more than 50 years); sex by male and female; education by uneducated and educated (primary and higher levels of schooling); and elevation of residence by highland (higher than 3000 m above sea level) and lowland. SPSS was used for the final analysis.

4. Results

a. The trend of climate variables

At Borojen station, the mean temperatures exhibited year-on-year decreases in all seasons except winter (January, February, March), with significant negative trends in June, July, August, September, and November (Table 2). The mean maximum temperature in August and November and the mean minimum temperature in December show a downward trend; in other months, the temperature variables have an increasing trend (Table 3). Also, the average maximum temperature in winter (January, February, and March), June, and October and the average minimum temperature in all months except January, August, November, and December have a positive significant trend (Table 4). The amount of rainfall in winter, May, October, and December has been decreasing, and rainfall in all months of the year does not follow a significant trend (Table 5). Because Borojen station lies at an altitude of 2260 m, the increase in the average temperature in winter results in early melting of snow in the region. In general, increasing day and night temperatures along with decreasing rainfall can have detrimental effects such as reducing snowfall and premature melting, which causes more evapotranspiration and leads to a deficiency of water for forage plants and agriculture.

Table 2

Mann–Kendall value of mean temperature variable in selected stations. Significance at the 1% level is indicated by two asterisks, significance at the 5% level is indicated by one asterisk, and significance at the 10% level is indicated by a plus sign.

Table 2
Table 3

Mann–Kendall value of mean minimum temperature variable in selected stations. Significance at the 1% level is indicated by two asterisks, significance at the 5% level is indicated by one asterisk, and significance at the 10% level is indicated by a plus sign.

Table 3
Table 4

Mann–Kendall value of mean maximum temperature variable in selected stations. Significance at the 1% level is indicated by two asterisks, significance at the 5% level is indicated by one asterisk, and significance at the 10% level is indicated by a plus sign.

Table 4
Table 5

Mann–Kendall value of precipitation rate variable in selected stations. Significance at the 1% level is indicated by two asterisks, significance at the 5% level is indicated by one asterisk, and significance at the 10% level is indicated by a plus sign.

Table 5

In Emam-Gheis station, mean temperature exhibited a positive trend in all months except May, June, July, and August, and it was statistically significant in January and June (Table 2). Precipitation in this station was positive in winter (January, February, and March) and April, November, and December (Table 5). The precipitation trend was significant in February, June, July, August, and December. The results showed increasing daylight temperature and decreasing nighttime temperature in this area. Increasing precipitation in winter and autumn has provided the water necessary for agriculture in the growing seasons and has helped to regulate the effects of high temperature.

Hamgin station is located to the north of Semirom station at 2399 m above sea level. In this station, mean temperature during the observation period increased except in March and November, and it was significant in all months except January, March, April, November, and December (Table 2). Precipitation has decreased in all months except February and April, and this trend was significant in May, June, July, and October (Table 5). This station is located in the highlands, and much of its precipitation falls as snow. However, increasing daily temperature has led to early melting of snow, decreasing water supply, and drying up of many springs in these areas.

Semirom station (at 2460 m above sea level) and Hamzavi-Hana station (at 2274 m above sea level) are important in the Semirom region. Mean temperature in Hamzavi-Hana station increased in all months except April, May, June, July, and November, and it was significant in October. In addition, the trend of mean temperature in Semirom station was positive in all months except March, August, October, and November, and it was not significant in any month (Table 2). Precipitation rate decreased in January, March, April, June, October, and December in Hamzavi-Hana station, and it was significant in December. In Semirom station, the precipitation trend was negative in January, February, April, June, November, and December, and it was significant in January (Table 5). In these two stations, mean temperature in all months increased and precipitation decreased, especially in winter and autumn—normally the peak rainfall period—which has led to dehydration, change in precipitation patterns, and decreasing rainfall in nongrowing seasons in the study area.

Mean temperature in Yasoj station located in the south of Semirom decreased in all months except winter (January, February, and March) and October, and it was significant in February, March, August, September, and November (Table 2). Mean maximum temperature increased in all months except November (Table 4). Noori and Ebrahimitabar (2013), in a study based on 1977–2008 data from the Dashtroom evaporation station located 20 km distance from Yasoj City, showed that the mean maximum temperature decreased, whereas no significant increasing trend was confirmed by the Mann–Kendall test. The contradictory results seem to be due to the difference in the statistical period. In addition, the mean minimum temperature trend decreased in all seasons except winter (January, February, and March) and showed a significant trend in November, September, and December (Table 3). Precipitation decreased in all months except April, August, and November and was significant in November (Table 5).

When considering aggregate annual data, negative trends were observed in mean temperature in the southern, southeastern, and eastern margins. In addition, the temperature trends increased from the south toward northwest (Fig. 3). Mean maximum temperature exhibited a positive trend in all parts except the northern boundary of Semirom. This trend increased from the north toward the south. The mean maximum temperature variable followed no discernible trend for Semirom station (Fig. 4). Mean minimum temperature exhibited negative trends in the south and around Semirom and positive trends in other parts of the region. Moreover, the highest trend was recorded in the north of Semirom (Fig. 5). In general, temperature variables (mean temperature, mean minimum temperature, and mean maximum temperature) showed an increasing trend in winter and autumn seasons and for the entire year but tended to follow different trends in summer and spring.

Fig. 3.
Fig. 3.

Isothermal map of equal mean annual temperature in Semirom.

Citation: Weather, Climate, and Society 14, 3; 10.1175/WCAS-D-21-0041.1

Fig. 4.
Fig. 4.

Isothermal map of equal annual mean maximum temperature in Semirom.

Citation: Weather, Climate, and Society 14, 3; 10.1175/WCAS-D-21-0041.1

Fig. 5.
Fig. 5.

Isothermal map of equal annual mean minimum temperature in Semirom.

Citation: Weather, Climate, and Society 14, 3; 10.1175/WCAS-D-21-0041.1

An assessment of annual precipitation reveals negative trends in most stations, with positive trends in the north of the area becoming negative toward southern parts, with the most significant decreases observed around Semirom station (Fig. 6). In general, the positive trend means that the parameter trend is increasing. For example, in the case of the mean temperature parameter, the positive trend means an increase in the mean temperature and a negative trend means a decrease in the mean temperature.

Fig. 6.
Fig. 6.

Annual precipitation in Semirom.

Citation: Weather, Climate, and Society 14, 3; 10.1175/WCAS-D-21-0041.1

b. Nomadic pastoralists’ perception of climate change

According to the results obtained from questionnaires, climatic parameters that were considered as signs of climate change in the view of nomadic pastoralists were categorized into four groups: rain, snow, temperature, and wind.

1) Rainfall

Qashqai nomads widely believe that precipitation has changed in terms of the number of rainy days, rainfall intensity, and rainfall type. Foremost, 93.7% and 93% of nomads stated a reduction in the number of rainy days in spring and autumn, respectively. Furthermore, 92% of nomads mentioned that the precipitation pattern has increasingly changed from snow to rain, while precipitation became more intense and shorter in duration (Table 6).

Table 6

Frequency distribution (%) of the Qashqai nomads’ opinions, and the results of the Mann–Whitney test for a 20-yr period.

Table 6

Rainfall shortage in the summer rangelands of Semirom has most prominently affected the quantity of water in springs, with 85% of nomads indicating significant decreases in discharge rate from springs. Many local people mistakenly believe that digging and drilling deep wells is the cause of decreased spring water output, although no drilled well exists in regions with documented spring season dryness, such as Qapaqlo–Yallanchi and Sartaq. Nomads are generally more confident that that springtime dryness arises as a result of 10-yr droughts in this area.

The results of Mann–Whitney test showed that age, sex, and education affected responses to rainfall variability. However, there was no significant difference in responses given to decreasing springtime precipitation between highland and lowland peoples (Table 6), perhaps because nomads often come to summer rangelands in mid-May when rainfall anyway decreases in both highlands and lowlands. Many nomads residing in the lowlands leave their summer rangelands in midautumn. However, nomads residing in the highlands stay until early December to harvest their apple trees. It seems that different responses about a reduction in autumn rainfall between highland and lowland might be due to the lack of the nomads’ awareness about lowlands in autumn, because they are not typically in this areas during the autumn. Men, for example, had more accurate information about climate change because they were more in touch with nature, older people spoke more about experience, and young people defined climate change as science they had learned in college.

2) Snow

As mentioned above, nomads unanimously noted that the precipitation pattern has increasingly changed from snow to rain in various conventional systems of Semirom, but especially in the Padna area (Farsimadan clan). Emphasizing this, 97% of nomads stated that the number of snow days decreased in their regions (Table 6).

An analysis using the Mann–Whitney test showed that age, sex, education, and elevation affected responses to snow variation. Although there was no significant difference between women and men above 50 years, a significant difference was observed between persons below 50 (Table 6). Because males often walk more extensively around rangelands, they are more exposed to a range of climate events. Because men spent more time in nature, they were more exposed to the climate and felt the changes well, whereas women spent most of their time in the tent and did not feel the changes well. Young people also talked more about climate change as related to their textbooks, whereas older people talked about their experiences in nature. In this way, it makes these cases effective in answering questions.

A common observation is that highlands (e.g., Dena Mountain) experienced more dramatic decreases, or even lack, of snow in comparison with lowlands. This is important from an ecosystems perspective because decreasing snow reduces underground water discharge, just as decreasing rainfall affects water flow discharge from Qantas and springs.

3) Temperature

According to common opinion of Qashqai nomads, daytime temperatures have changed over the past 20 years. Reflecting this, 91.8% and 92.5% of nomads stated that temperatures increased in spring and autumn, respectively; they had slightly different opinions about nighttime temperature, for which about 73% and 75.3% mentioned increasing night temperature in spring and autumn, respectively. Similar opinions were also expressed about daytime temperature among highland and lowland peoples (south, west–south, and west), but the opinions were significantly different (at the 1% level in the Mann–Whitney test) about nighttime temperature between highland and lowland. Accordingly, about 70% of nomads residing in the lowlands observed increasing night temperature, while 90% mentioned increasing nighttime temperature in the highlands. In addition, nomads stated that about 20 years ago it was impossible to enter their yaylak before the 60th day (late May) due to severe cold conditions, but recently they have been able to move to this area even sooner than this date. One of the most important reasons is that forage has not yet had a chance to grow in high cold environments. Nowadays, forage grows sooner because of early warming. Similarly, 20 years ago nomads typically had to leave rangelands by late September, but recently they have been able to remain until mid-November because the cold has not yet set in (Table 6). In addition to climate parameters such as day and nighttime temperatures, some other factors arising from temperature change were also mentioned by nomads. For example, one of the consequences of early warming, which was noted by 82% of nomads, is the emergence of biting insects in the pastures.

The results of the Mann–Whitney test showed that sex, age, education, and elevation had significant effects on responses to questions about temperature parameters. In one anomaly, the altitude at which nomads live led to divergence on the issue of increasing day temperature in spring (Table 6). It seems that this slight difference is due to their migratory pattern, whereby highland and lowland people inhabit very different elevations in spring and respond based on their very local experience. In autumn, in contrast, highland-residing nomads stay in rangelands and lowland-residing nomads do not well track changes in autumn temperature.

4) Wind

Similar to the abovementioned climate factors, nomads residing in the summer rangelands of Semirom believed that wind parameters significantly changed over the previous 20 years. According to the results, 93.3% of nomads stated that wind rate increased, and this led to increasing dust in the area. Reflecting this, 93.8% and 95% of nomads mentioned that the number of spring and autumn dust days increased, respectively (Table 6).

The results of the Mann–Whitney test showed a significant effect of sex on responses given to all questions, except for increasing wind rate. Both sexes uniformly declared that wind rate increased in the area; in contrast, differences in age, education, and elevation affected all responses (Table 6).

c. Nomadic statements on adaptation to climate change

The direct interaction with the environment of Qashqai nomadic pastoralists in summer rangelands of Semirom has led them to perceive many of the climactic changes and, in some cases, develop adaptations. Many of these adaptations concern livestock raising. For example, 97% of nomads reduced the number, and changed the composition of, livestock during relatively long dry spells (drought events) in the region over the past 20 years, mostly by decreasing the number of sheep and increasing the number of goats. The results of the Mann–Kendall test also showed a significant relationship between high- and low-altitude areas in terms of change in the livestock composition. About 63% of high-altitude residing respondents and 51% of low-altitude residing respondents acknowledged increasing the number of goats, while and 24% and 39% of respondents from high- and low-altitude areas, respectively, rejected this strategy. Decreasing precipitation has also forced nomads to feed livestock artificially with the cultivated fodder crops, such as straw and barley, to overcome the limited availability of high-quality self-growing forage plants such as Bromus tomentellus in the summer rangelands of Semirom. Similarly, about 74% of nomads responded that they feed livestock with the remaining crop residues left after harvest. Keeping certain livestock types whose economic profitability is collectively half of its optimum (half-profitable livestock) is also a nomadic adaptive strategy. According to results, an equal number of agree and disagree responses were observed with regard to adopting such a strategy (Table 7). Some people believe that this strategy would not bring significant economic benefits, whereas some others consider it as the only available profitable option.

Table 7

Frequency distribution (%) of opinions of Qashqai nomads about adaptive strategies in response to climate change over the past 20 years.

Table 7

Besides the impacts on livestock, adaptations and compromises in the lifestyle and socioeconomic conditions of nomads have also been required. Around 70% of nomads have started to use gas cylinders as a source of fire despite their higher cost logistical burden, as firewood supply has diminished with vegetation cover. The decreasing water outflow and drying up of many springs in Semirom has become serious enough that officials have sought to provide nomads with water and construct water storage reservoirs. The prevalence of this problem is under question, however, as the results of this research indicated a significant difference of opinion concerning water supply and storage between high- and low-altitude residing nomads, at the 1% significant level. In combination, economic, environmental, and social changes, have led to a different approach to housing and shelter. To manage increasing wind speed, 82% of the respondents stated that they have abandoned their iconic black tents in favor of cement-block structures. Black tents, which are woven from black goat hair by nomadic women, have served as the common shelter in both summer and winter. Goat hair, which is widely available and cheap, provides resistance against precipitation but is vulnerable to high wind speeds. The shift to cement structures solves this problem and also allows them to postpone their migration to winter rangelands.

5. Discussion

This study evaluates the Indigenous knowledge of nomadic pastoralists in central Iran concerning climate and socioeconomic change. In particular, perceptions of climate (change) were captured and compared with 20-yr meteorological data to determine the extent of awareness and adaptation to climate change.

a. Precipitation rate

This variable decreased in spring and autumn in the south and also decreased around Semirom town and in the north in early spring and late autumn. According to the perception of nomadic pastoralists in southern areas, where the Farsimadan clan inhabits, 100% of respondents strongly agree about decreasing precipitation Salick and Byg (2007) found that the prediction of precipitation change, ranging from the Colombian coast to the Kalahari Desert and the Himalayas, aligns with local people’s perceptions of change in pattern, duration, and intensity of precipitation. It is clear that the opinions of nomadic pastoralists in southern parts are consistent with the recorded trend of changes in climate variables. In other areas, the views of nomadic pastoralists do not align as precisely with meteorological data but are reasonable when viewed more holistically.

Although northern areas and around Semirom town have not monolithically experienced a decrease in precipitation, more than 99% respondents agree and strongly agree that there is decreasing precipitation. It seems that nomads who reside in the north may perceive the increasing precipitation due to parallel experiences of higher temperature and higher evaporation. Moreover, nomads judge changes in precipitation based not only on rainfall and snow, but on the effects of precipitation on water supplies; incidentally, the increasing precipitation trend in these seasons has not significantly improved underground and spring water storage. Shakiba et eal. (2010) showed that 24-month droughts have affected the utility of underground water storage by making it more likely that the water table (depth) is below the mean level during dry months (when it is in demand) and above mean level during wet months (when it is less necessary). Khan et eal. (2008) also achieved similar results by investigating drought and its effects on underground water in some farmlands of Australia. Given the functional decline of groundwater storage, nomads conclude that precipitation has functionally decreased in recent years.

b. Temperature

Temperature variables include long-term mean minimum and maximum temperatures. According to meteorological data, mean temperature in the spring decreased in the south and increased in the center and toward the north. Temperature followed a reverse trend in autumn in which the northern and central parts exhibited negative trends and southern parts showed positive trends. In addition, mean minimum and maximum temperatures in spring were lower in the south. Temperature trends are positive in the center and toward the north in early spring and then negative in late spring. In autumn, mean maximum temperature is negative in early and midautumn and is ascending in southern parts in late autumn, while the mean minimum trend is negative during the entire autumn. These variables have a negative trend in early and midautumn in the center and toward the north of Semirom and become positive in late autumn. Montazeri (2014) showed that the increasing trends of maximum temperature occur mostly in low-elevation areas. Furthermore, the increasing trend of maximum temperature is less than that of minimum temperature across the country. Minimum temperature trends occur at night and followed an increasing trend in 60% of the total area of the country. The results of questionnaire analysis reveal nominal differences between nomadic clans from different clans in different parts of Semirom. In the highland areas, 87% of nomads in the south, including Farsimadan clan, reported increasing temperatures in spring, while 84% reported increasing temperatures in autumn. In northern and central Semirom, 88% and 89% of Darreh Shori clan concurred about increasing daytime temperature in spring and autumn. In eastern Semirom, all members of Amaleh clan reported increasing daytime temperature in spring and autumn. In general, the results showed that in spring the respondents’ opinions and the trend of meteorological data are aligned with each other, whereas in autumn they differ in some areas. Nomads mentioned increasing autumn temperatures, whereas meteorological data showed a decreasing trend in autumn temperatures. This difference likely arises because of the absence of nomads in the area in autumn causes them to judge autumn based on the conditions of summer and spring.

c. Wind and dust

According to the analysis of the number of dust days and average wind speed, it was found that both variables have increased from spring through to autumn. Moreover, more than 90% of nomads from different clans and areas in Semirom agreed and strongly agreed about the increasing average wind speed and the number of dust days, indicating that Indigenous knowledge aligned with the trends of climate variables. In agreement with our results on this variable, Salick and Byg (2007) found that local peoples inhabiting a diverse set of world regions have reported stronger winds and incidence of lightning.

6. Summary

Tahmasebi et eal. (2013), in a study on the Shahsavan tribe of Iran, found that the Indigenous knowledge of nomadic pastoralists led to predictions that were consistently aligned with the trends in temperature and precipitation. The results of this study similarly confirm this for the Qashqai, indicating that nomadic pastoralists have a good understanding about climate changes occurred in their regions and have already adopted some measures to compensate for the changing environment.

The protection of Indigenous knowledge is important because, as compared with modern techniques such as remote sensing, it can be directly applied and the gathered information is accessible and rooted in the people’s culture. On the other hand, Indigenous knowledge is a part of the national capital of every nation, which includes their local beliefs, values, and awareness, and is the result of centuries of trial and error in the natural environment. Preservation of Indigenous knowledge is of the utmost importance because, unlike modern systems such as remote sensing, Indigenous knowledge is used directly, and its information can be used immediately and is rooted in popular culture. Indigenous knowledge also has an influential role in pasture and livestock management and this knowledge is sensitive and comprehensive and can be adapted to changing conditions. Moreover, Indigenous knowledge plays a parallel and pivotal role in rangeland and livestock management. This knowledge sensitive to environmental conditions and comprehensive enough to provide direct feedback for adaptation (Hartman and Sugulle 2009). Nomadic pastoralists can raise awareness about their specific environments through regular observations and are motivated to adopt management strategies (Bouzarjomhari and Rokneldin Eftekhari 2005).

Because nomadic pastoralists have already faced numerous challenges in protecting their way of life and have adopted measures that have already compromised some traditions and norms, it seems prudent for some of the burden for managing climate change shifts to other actors. Therefore, it is incumbent upon authorities to do their part in protecting nomadic lifestyles and providing opportunities to adapt to the changing environment and culturally respectful ways. Given the fundamental degradation of conditions for nomadic pastoralism, authorities should also consider providing alternative sustainable occupations to help pastoralists compensate for the lower income resulting from climate change, with a view to allowing them to continue their nomadic lifestyle. The nomadic pastoralists of Semirom have persisted in their lifestyle by adopting various measures to respond to, and mitigate, ongoing climatic change. The government should take these efforts into account by providing ancillary services that support this way of life. This could include provision of low-interest loans, auxiliary forage, watering, livestock insurance, and free livestock examinations; such measures would facilitate adaptation to future conditions and forestall degradation of nomadic rangelands and associated lifestyles.

7. Conclusions

Similar to other natural-resource-dependent groups, nomadic pastoralists are vulnerable to shifts in climactic conditions. Although not monolithic in every region of Semirom, central Iran, the trend of decreasing annual precipitation has impacted underground water reserves, soil humidity, and river flow. Along with increasing temperature, decreasing rainfall and snowpack in recent years have negatively affected water supplies and, consequently, agriculture and pastoralist lifestyle in this area. Recurring droughts and higher wind speeds have accelerated the pace of environmental change, leading to numerous social and economic responses among nomadic pastoralists.

Although Semirom has been facing the destructive effects of prolonged droughts, and already imposed substantial socioeconomic impacts on nomads, these impacts have not yet received the full attention of environmental managers and decision-makers. One of the primary ongoing problems of nomads is to access water, which has been depleted by climate change and agricultural withdrawal from permanent and seasonal rivers, springs, and aqueducts. Water scarcity in recent years has caused many problems, notably decreasing livestock weight and higher risk of infectious disease. Drought and climate change have directly impeded plant growth and degraded the vegetation cover. Such impacts have also indirectly impacted winter rangelands by encouraging early movement to the region, and thus a longer period pressure on foraging resources. Meanwhile, because of decreasing precipitation, the nomadic summer rangelands cannot provide sufficient forage required by livestock, leading nomads to buy expensive feed to sustain their livestock. This economic pressure, coupled with a lack of seasonal liquidity and working capital, compels many pastoralists to sell their livestock in the summer at depressed prices and, consequently, undermines their attempts at optimally growing livestock through the year.

Climate change directly and indirectly has led to a cascade of negative impacts, which have discouraged pastoralist lifestyles. The decline in water resources, for example, has led to a degradation of drinking water supplies for nomads and their livestock, followed by an associated deficit of forage for livestock and high risk of livestock disease, necessitating importune sale of livestock, which leads to increasing tribal and social tensions over water and rangeland resources, social and economic problems among nomadic communities and families, such as early migrations, abandonment of maladapted traditional black goat hair tents, and degradation of complementary nutritive resources, such as fruit trees.

The aim of this work is to understand whether informally educated local people have noticed climate change and adopted appropriate strategies. International organizations and conventions have urged governments to support local communities and incorporate their empirical knowledge into any decision-making process. In some cases, Indigenous knowledge of local peoples can provide not only a deeper understanding of the consequences of environmental change but can provide clues for how to integrate climate change knowledge into participatory planning. The mutual utilization of these knowledges has the potential to induce synergy. In general, when the results are aligned, it means that local people are aware of the processes and functions and can meaningfully be incorporated into cooperative plans.

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    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
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    • Search Google Scholar
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    • Search Google Scholar
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  • Abtahi, S. M., A. Seif, and V. Khosroshahi, 2014: Assessment of temperature and precipitation trends in Kashan Namak lake basin during the last half-century. Iran. J. Rangeland Desert Res., 21, 112, https://doi.org/10.22092/IJRDR.2014.8066.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Babai Fini, O., E. Ghasemi, and E. Fattahi, 2014: Effect of climate change on the trends of extreme precipitation indices in Iran. J. Spat. Anal. Environ. Hazards, 1, 85103.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Bouzarjomhari, K. H., and R. Rokneldin Eftekhari, 2005: Analyzing the role of indigenous knowledge in sustainable rural development. Madras J. Hum. Sci., 9, 1745.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Codjoe, S. N. A., G. Owusu, and V. Burkett, 2014: Perception, experience and indigenous knowledge of climate change and variability: The case of Accra, a sub-Saharan African city. Reg. Environ. Change, 14, 369383, https://doi.org/10.1007/s10113-013-0500-0.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Ehlers, E., and C. Schetter, 2001: Pastoral nomadism and environment: Bakhtiari in the Iranian Zagros Mountains. Petermanns Geogr. Mitt., 145, 4455.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Enock, C. M., 2013: Indigenous knowledge systems and modern weather forecasting: Exploring the linkages. J. Agric. Sustainability, 2, 98141.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • FAO, 2007: Adaptation to climate change in agriculture, forestry and fisheries: Perspective, framework and priorities. United Nations Doc., 32 pp., https://www.accc.gv.at/pdf/j9271e.pdf.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Forests, Range and Watershed Management Organization of Iran, 2002: Long-term plan of the country’s forests and rangelands to revitalize renewable natural resources. FRWMO Doc., 83 pp.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Gharekhani, A., N. Ghahreman, and J. Bazrafshan, 2013: Trend analysis of pan evaporation in different climates of Iran. Watershed Manage. Res., 26, 8597.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Hameed, T., M. A. Morino, J. J. Devries, and J. C. Tracy, 1997: Method for trend detection in climatological variables. J. Hydrol. Eng., 2, 154160, https://doi.org/10.1061/(ASCE)1084-0699(1997)2:4(154).

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Hartman, I., and A. J. Sugulle, 2009: The impact of climate change on pastoral societies of Somaliland. Candlelight for Health, Education & Environment Rep., 62 pp., https://www.unisdr.org/files/13863_FinaldraftEffectsofclimatechangeonp.pdf.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Hayati, D., and N. Valizadeh, 2021: Freshwater management and conservation in Iran: Past, present, and future. Tigris and Euphrates Rivers: Their Environment from Headwaters to Mouth, Springer, 15071533.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Hsiang, S. M., and M. Burke, 2014: Climate conflict and social stability: What does the evidence say? Climatic Change, 123, 3955, https://doi.org/10.1007/s10584-013-0868-3.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • IPCC, 2007: Climate Change 2007: The Physical Science Basis. Cambridge University Press, 996 pp., https://www.ipcc.ch/site/assets/uploads/2018/05/ar4_wg1_full_report-1.pdf.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Karimi, Z., 2018: Public works programs as a strong means for land and water conservation in Iran. Full Employment and Social Justice, Springer, 109138.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Khan, S., H. F. Gabriel, and T. Rana, 2008: Standard precipitation index to track drought and assess impact of rainfall on water tables in irrigation areas. Irrig. Drain. Syst., 22, 159177, https://doi.org/10.1007/s10795-008-9049-3.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Kijazi, A. L., L. B. Chang’a, E. T. Liwenga, A. Kanemba, and S. J. Nindi, 2013: The use of indigenous knowledge in weather and climate prediction in Mahenge and Ismani wards, Tanzania. J. Geogr. Reg. Plan., 6, 274279, https://doi.org/10.5897/JGRP2013.0386.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Leiserowitz, A., N. Smith, and J. R. Marlon, 2010: Americans’ knowledge of climate change. Yale Project Climate Change Communication Doc., 60 pp., https://climatecommunication.yale.edu/wp-content/uploads/2016/02/2010_10_Americans%E2%80%99-Knowledge-of-Climate-Change.pdf.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Marin, A., 2010: Riders under storms: Contributions of nomadic herders’ observations to analyzing climate change in Mongolia. Global Environ. Change, 20, 162176, https://doi.org/10.1016/j.gloenvcha.2009.10.004.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Marshall, C. A., 2020: The role of indigenous paradigms and traditional knowledge systems in modern humanity’s sustainability quest—Future foundations from past knowledge’s. Designing Sustainable Cities, Springer, 1728, https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-030-54686-1_2.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Mekonnen, D. F., and M. Disse, 2016: Analyzing the future climate change of Upper Blue Nile River basin using statistical downscaling techniques. Hydrol. Earth Syst. Sci., 22, 23912408, https://doi.org/10.5194/hess-22-2391-2018.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Modares, R., and M. Khodagholi, 2009: Regional analyzing of precipitation trend in Isfahan state. Second National Conf. on Management Approaches and Drought Effects, Isfahan, Iran, Isfahan Agriculture and Natural Resources Research and Education Center, 118.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Montazeri, M., 2014: Spatial–temporal analysis of Iran annual temperatures during 1961–2008. Geogr. Dev., 36, 209228.

  • Nachar, N., 2008: The Mann-Whitney U: A test foe assessing weather two independent samples come from the same distribution. Tutor. Quant. Methods Psychol., 4, 1320, https://doi.org/10.20982/tqmp.04.1.p013.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Nazeri Tahrudi M., K. Khalili, and F. Ahmadi, 2016: Spatial and regional analysis of precipitation trend over Iran in the last half of century. J. Water Soil, 30, 643654.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Niguse Beyene, A., 2016: Precipitation and temperature trend analysis in Mekelle city, Northern Ethiopia, the case of Illala meteorological station. J. Earth Sci. Climatic Change, 7, 16, https://doi.org/10.4172/2157-7617.1000324.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Noori, G., and A. Ebrahimitabar, 2013: Examining the trend of maximum temperature in Kohgiluyeh and Boyerahmad Province, case study: Dashtroom region. Nivar, 83, 3746.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Önöy, B., and M. Bayazit, 2003: The power of statistical tests for trend detection. Turkish J. Eng. Environ. Sci., 27, 247251.

  • Osman, Y., N. Al-Ansari, M. Abdellatif, S. B. Aljawad, and S. Knutsson, 2014: Expected future precipitation in central Iraq using LARS-WG stochastic weather generator. Engineering, 6, 948959, https://doi.org/10.4236/eng.2014.613086.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Pimentel, D., 2006: Soil erosion: A food and environmental threat. J. Environ. Dev. Sustainability, 8, 119137, https://doi.org/10.1007/s10668-005-1262-8.

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  • Fig. 1.

    Location of study area in Isfahan Province, central Iran.

  • Fig. 2.

    Map of climatic zones of Semirom based on the De Martonne classification system.

  • Fig. 3.

    Isothermal map of equal mean annual temperature in Semirom.

  • Fig. 4.

    Isothermal map of equal annual mean maximum temperature in Semirom.

  • Fig. 5.

    Isothermal map of equal annual mean minimum temperature in Semirom.

  • Fig. 6.

    Annual precipitation in Semirom.

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