Basic information of interviewees
Results of the descriptive analysis summarized in Table 2 show that more than half of the respondents were males (69%) and were on average 41.3 years old while more than 32 years of farming experience. The study area is comprised of multiple ethnic groups (Han, Tibetan, Yugur, Mongolian, Hui, etc.). In most cases, the main livelihood activity of the Ethnic Minorities (Tibetan, Yugur, Mongolian, Hui, etc.) is livestock, while Han people main livelihood activity is farming. The majority of respondents (64%) were minority nationality. The vast majority of the agro-pastoralists (86%) have a primary school education or above, even though only 1% of them have Undergraduate education or Above. The results also reveal that 92% of respondents have access to weather information. The average cultivated land Per household is 10.23 Mu and Grassland is 156.21 Mu, respectively. The average per household income is RMB78000, and agricultural income is RMB52000.
Due to their long-term farming experience, the agro-pastoralists were expected to have a high-level of understanding of local climate knowledge. Also contributing to this could be the information they receive about climate change and for some, the associated training through agro-pastoralists’ associations. Therefore, they also have a propensity to adapt to adverse conditions resulting from climate change impacts. In addition, the high-level of farming experience, the cultivated-land size, grassland size, Credit loan, Insurance, Village cadres all have a positive impact on the level of agro-pastoralists’ adaptation to new climate scenarios.
However, the education level and cadres experience may be the major limiting factors for adopting specific long-term adaptation strategies. Ethnicity and gender are also expected to be key factors influencing awareness and adaptation to climate change. There are differences in relative perception intensity between Ethnic Minority and Han because of their cultural ecology (the main livelihood activity of minorities nationality is livestock, while Han main livelihood activity is farming.). In terms of gender, women in rural areas are less mobile and have less access to information and rights. They are also heavily involved in domestic work. However, men may have easier access to information (socializing, going out to work, etc.) Therefore, male headed households are expected to be more likely to adapt to the impact of climate change.
Climate change trend in the study area
Figure 2 shows the trend of annual precipitation, annual rainfall and annual snow at different meteorological stations in the study area. As shown in the Fig. 2, precipitation, rainfall and snow show an increasing trend, but the increase range of snow (0.0325–0.375/a) is significantly lower than that of precipitation (1.22–3.1/a) and rainfall (1.04–2.81/a). Similarly, through the inspection, it is found that the multi-collinearity among precipitation, rainfall and snow at each meteorological station is obvious (most R2 > 0.5, and p < 0.01 or 0.05). The oscillation mode of rainfall shows that most of the highest rainfall over the past 32 years occurs in 2019, indicating the wettest year, while 1991 was the driest year over the same period (see Fig. 2). IPCC AR5 pointed out that the global climate system will continue to warm in the future, global precipitation will increase, and water cycles will accelerate, but there are significant regional differences43. From 1960 to 2014, the precipitation increased by 6.95 mm/10a42, and increased largest in summer42,43. Studies have shown that the precipitation and its extreme value increased significantly in the eastern and central part of the Qilian Mountains, and the central was most sensitive to climate warming42. IPCC1,8 pointed out that climate is the limiting factor affecting agricultural production, especially in inland areas. On the one hand, the temperature fluctuates and rises continuously, the sowing date of crops is advanced, and the growth period of crops becomes longer; On the other hand, the annual fluctuation rate of precipitation increases, and the uncertainty of “rainy year” and “dry year” increases the change of crop yield.
In Fig. 3, the trends of annual (mean, max, min) temperature are presented. The results show an increase in mean, maximum and minimum temperature. The annual average temperature increases of each station were 0.3/10a (Jiuquan), 0.42/10a (Milne), 0.34/10a (Wushaoling), 0.18/10a (Sunan) and 0.44/10a (Yongchang), respectively. Overall, this is significant (p < 0.01) for the annual mean temperature, annual maximum temperature and annual minimum temperature in the study area.
Figure 4 also shows rising summer (mean, max, min) temperature and Fig. 5 shows rising winter (mean, max, min) temperature. These findings are consistent with previous studies which revealed rising temperature in Qilian Mountains11,12,13,45. The temperature rise provides a favorable environment for carbon 3 and carbon 4 crops, such as wheat, barley, corn and beans. However, the increase of temperature leads to the increase of crop evapotranspiration, which reduces agricultural productivity to a certain extent8. The study also reports that rising temperatures have a negative impact on Livestock Reproduction and growth and expose livestock to pasture and water challenges46,47. The rampant spread of pests and diseases have also been related to climate change48,49,50. The increasing trend of annual temperature and summer temperature were more significant than winter temperature.
Respondents’ perception of climate change
The climate change perception of agro-pastoralists is presented in Table 3. Among the 565 agro-pastoralists, 554 had heard about climate change and about 500 believed that climate is changing. Agro-pastoralists understood climate change by different indicators. In the case of temperature, a vast majority of the respondents (83.03%, summer/68.95%, winter) perceived that there have been changes in temperature in the district. Similarly, there have been changes in rainfall in the district as reported by 77.08% (rainfall)/72.74% (snow) of the respondents. In terms of quantity, the majority of the respondents (39.53%) perceive a decrease in rainfall, the next majority of respondents (37.55%) feel that rainfall is increasing. and about 4.69%/7.58% respondents feel that rainfall is unpredictable in terms of quantity (sometimes high, sometimes low).
Regarding the changes in temperature, the majority of respondents have noticed the rising summer temperature (71.3%), while 11.73% of the respondents perceive that the decreasing summer temperature. For the winter temperature, nearly 32.31% perceive that winter is becoming colder while nearly equal percentage of the respondents (36.64%) perceive that winter is getting warmer. In our study, there are 3.25–7.58% of respondents who do not perceive any changes in temperature; yet this is nearly equal compared to those who did not perceive any changes in rainfall. Climate variables particularly rainfall and temperature have been extensively studied as they are perceived to be significant to the agricultural activities of agro-pastoralists51,52,53.
How well do these perceptions correspond to those estimated by physical measurements? Five sites present similar trends between observed and perceived data: increasing precipitation and temperature (Table 4). In terms of temperature, most respondents (75%, summer /54%, winter) can accurately perceive the temperature rise in the region. Similarly, 63% (rainfall) /66% (snowfall) of the respondents accurately reported the increase rainfall in the region. Gender, farming experience, education level, cultivated land size, agricultural income, livestock, village cadre experience, access to weather information of agro-pastoralists are closely related to agro-pastoralists’ awareness of climate change (Table 5).
Agro-pastoralists’ sources of climate change information
Availability and accessibility of information on climate change are assumed to be key determinants of the extent of agro-pastoralist awareness, understanding and knowledge of climate change impacts54. This research, therefore, explored the different ways that agro-pastoralists received information about climate change. The results are reported in Fig. 6. Figure 6 reveals that the respondents received information about climate change mainly from personal experience (73.37%), internet (53.25%), television (42.06%). Other sources such as radio (12.27%), family/friends (15.34%), association/extension (5.78%), newspaper/magazine (3.79%) and Other (1.44%) were far less important. Recently, communication devices (e.g., mobile phones, computers) that provide access to the internet play an important role for socioeconomic development in agro-pastoralist areas and may be relevant to spread information about climate change among agro-pastoralists.
Determinants of agro-pastoralists’ perception
In order to further understand the relationship between Agro-pastoralist population characteristics and climate change perception, multiple regression (probit) analysis was used (Table 5).With the increase of experience, education, cultivatedland size, agricultural income, livestock, village cadres, access to weather information, agro-pastoralists’ awareness of climate change has increased significantly. The results also showed that women’s perception of climate change was higher than men’s.
The gender of respondents is a significant explanatory determinant (p-value is 0.02, coefficient is 0.325). In other words, women have more information and experience than men. This may be because in agricultural production, particularly in the planting and livestock sectors, women work significantly longer hours than men and are more sensitive to aware of the impacts from climate change on livelihoods55. The dependent variable significance of farming experience and their awareness of climate change (p-value 0.000, coefficient positive 0.39) indicates that experienced agro-pastoralists are more aware of climate change than inexperienced agro-pastoralists. These results are consistent with the findings of Eric et al.25.These results are consistent with the findings of Funatsu et al.56. The variables of respondents’ education level were highly significant (P value 0.01, coefficient 0.023). This means that agro-pastoralists are exposed to more climate events as their education level improves. This may be because well-educated agro-pastoralists are more sensitive to climate change because they are more scientific and technologically literate. These results are consistent with the findings of Maddison57 and Fahad et al.58.
The variables cultivatedland size, agricultural income and livestock have indicated a significant relationship with dependent variable at (p-value 0.01 and coefficient 0.023), (p-value 0.03 and coefficient 0.01) and (p-value 0.02 and coefficient 0.001), respectively. This reveals that with the increase of cultivatedland size, agricultural income and livestock, agro-pastoralists are more likely to be aware of climate change. These results are consistent with the findings of Oduniyi59, Mudombi et al.60 and Huong et al.61.
Village cadres and access to weather information variables have showed (coefficient 0.309, 0.233 and p-value 0.00, 0.00, respectively), which indicate that the agro-pastoralists who have the experience of serving as village cadres and have sufficient information or knowledge about climate change have higher awareness of climate change. Compared with ordinary agro-pastoralists, village cadres have a higher level of education and a richer social network, which can help collect and analyze information and improve understanding. In the interviewed areas, the main sources of information mentioned by agro-pastoralists are personal experience, internet and television. Our research findings are in line with Deressa et al.20 and Pondorfer62.
Agro-pastoralists’ perceptions of climate change impacts
The research investigated how respondents perceived the impact of climate change on their livelihoods, especially on crop planting area, pasture quality, housing security, livestock loss, crop/livestock diseases, harvest time, seeding/calving time and agricultural income. Respondents were asked to explain to what extent variability in rainfall and temperature affected their livelihoods. The response frequency is reported in Table 6 (where 5 = High, 4 = Medium, 3 = low, 2 = No and 1 = Don’t know).
Respondents have different views on the impact of climate change (Table 6). More than 50% of respondents said that climate change had a medium or above impact on pasture quality housing security livestock loss crop/livestock diseases agricultural income, and these variables were greatly affected by climate change. As for the planting area, the agro-pastoralists who are mainly planting are the most affected. This might be due to the high rainfall variability on agriculture production. Qin et al. (2004)63 estimated that by 2030, cereal production in China will decrease by 5–10% because of climate change. Liu et al. (2020)64 also reported that climate (i.e., rainfall and temperature) variability significantly impacted cereal production.
Among the respondents, nearly 15% disclosed that they have abandoned part of the land or are ready to abandon it; With regard to harvest time and harvesting / calving time, more than 70% said that the impact was small or not, but the survey showed that nearly 10 people said that the seeding time was ahead of schedule, and the calving time also changed, which may be related to the introduction of new varieties. Relevant research indicated that a significant portion of the negative impact of climate change on crops could be offset by growing new cultivars that had higher thermal time requirements or by implementing sowing date changes65,66,67,68,69.
Factors affecting agro-pastoralists’ adaptation to climate change
The probit model was used to evaluate the impact of selected variables on livelihood adaptability to the impact of climate change. A summary of the results is given in Table 7. The results in Table 7 show that the age, education, household size, grassland size, agricultural income, Association membership and village cadres significantly affect the adaptability of respondents.
Experience has a positive and significant impact on adaptation to climate change. Probit analysis showed that experience increased the adaptation similarity of respondents by 5.3%. Households headed with rich agricultural experience are more likely to adapt to the impact of climate change. Our findings are consistent with Maddison (2007)57, Ojo et al. (2021)70, Shahid et al. (2021)71, and Thoai et al. (2018)72, who revealed that farming experience and relevant adaptation measures have a significant impact on the adoption of adaptation measures.
Education is considered an important factor in adapting to climate change. Table 7 shows that education has a significant positive impact on respondents’ adaptation to climate change impacts. An increase in formal education by one level was associated with a 8.1% increase in the likelihood of family adaptation. Our findings are consistent with Fosu-Mensah et al. (2012)73, Khanal et al. (2018)74, and Thoai et al. (2018)72, 2018, who revealed that education level is an important factor affecting the possibility of agro-pastoralists’ adaptation to climate change.
The variable of household size shows that the ability of respondents to adapt to climate change increases with the increase of household size. Our findings are consistent with Khanal et al. (2019)74, Jha and Gupta (2021)75, and Shahid et al. (2021)71, who revealed that household size affects respondents’ adaptive decision-making. However, our findings are in disagreement with Fahad et al. (2020)58, who reported an inverse relationship of household size with adaptability.
Table 7 shows a significant positive correlation between Grassland size, Agricultural income and adaptation. Respondents with a high Grassland size are more likely to adapt to climate change. The higher Agricultural income is, the more chance the family has to adapt to climate change. Our findings are consistent with Roco et al. (2014)76, and Arunrat et al. (2017)77, who revealed that household size affects respondents’ adaptive decision-making.
Association membership positively and significantly affects adaptation to climate change impacts. Table 7 shows that Association membership has a significant positive impact on respondents’ adaptation to climate change. When one Association is added, the family’s adaptive capacity increases by 87.8 percent. Our findings are consistent with Roco et al. (2014)76, and Johnson and Brown (2017)78, who revealed that intensity of adaptation is greatly affected by farm organizations or associations.
The experience of village cadres has a significant positive effect on climate change adaptation. When one Association is added, the family’s adaptive capacity increases by 87.8 percent.
The experience of village cadres has a significant positive effect on climate change adaptation. If there is village cadre experience, adaptability increases by more than one. It is easier for village cadres to take advantage of their positions to obtain information and take adaptive measures.
In order to reduce the negative impacts of climate change and maintain the livelihoods of rural households, it is necessary to improve the education level of agro-pastoralists, strengthen the capacity of community organization building and information dissemination services, and help agro-pastoralists better implement appropriate climate change management strategies.
Adaptation strategies adopted by agro-pastoralists
It was also anticipated that the survey would reveal whether agro-pastoralists had taken some strategies to cope with climate change. Agro-pastoralists were enquired as to whether they had adopted adaptation measures to respond to the impact of climate change. The adaptation strategies included adjusting planting/breeding structure, adopting new technologies, improving varieties, increasing irrigation, adjusting breeding methods, building infrastructure (fences, greenhouses), land transfer, exit the agriculture, out for work, loan, purchasing insurance (Fig. 7). It is clear from Fig. 7 that the most commonly used adaptation practices were building infrastructure (fences, greenhouses) and adjusting breeding methods, whereas increasing irrigation and exit the agriculture were the least adopted adaptation strategies. Moreover, adjusting breeding methods as well as alternative livelihoods were also introduced to respond to the impact of climate change. Among the surveyed agro-pastoralists, there were still those who did not adopt any strategy in response to climate change.
It should also be noted that agro-pastoralists who claimed to have observed climate change provide many reasons for their failure to take effective measures to cope with climate change, including lack of information, lack of funds, lack of labor, lack of land, and insufficient irrigation potential. The survey showed that there were two major obstacles: lack of funds and lack of information. These findings were consistent with Ojo and Baiyegunhi (2020)79, and Deressa et al. (2009)20. At present, the market price of agricultural products is very low compared to the cost of production, so agro-pastoralists are not willing to spend money and time in agricultural production, preferring to develop alternative livelihoods to increase their income.
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