HighArcs will complete a detailed multidisciplinary situation analysis of highland aquatic resources, focused on values, livelihoods, conservation issues and wise-use options at five sites in Asia (Guangdong, China; Uttrakhand and West Bengal, India and northern and central Vietnam).

The project began in June 2009 with a training workshop in Kolkata, India. During the project, factors assessed will include biodiversity and ecosystem services, including provisioning, regulating, supporting and cultural services. Livelihood strategies of households dependent on ecosystem services derived from highland aquatic resources, in particular poor, food-insecure and vulnerable people, will be assessed within a sustainable livelihoods framework and opportunities to enhance such livelihoods assessed. Institutional features, including local, national and international policy and legislation, trajectories of change, stakeholder values associated with highland aquatic resources and areas of conflict will be assessed.

IUCN is a partner in this project which is being led by The Centre for Environment and Society at The University of Essex. There are a number of other stakeholders involved including The Centre for the Development of Human Initiatives based in northern Bengal, India and the South China Agricultural University. For a full list of the project partners see the HighArcs website. The workload is divided into nine integrated Workpackages (WP1-9) and IUCN will lead on WPs3 and 6. WP3 is focused on the assessment of highland aquatic resources, biodiversity and ecosystem services, as well as the production of possible conservation action plans for each of the sites. WP6 is designed to explore results produced in previous WPs in order to consider changes in ecosystem services and biodiversity values resulting from intervention assessed against indicators and evaluated. Stakeholder participation will be critical to ensure new knowledge is accessible for collective decision-making and development of policies for the equitable use and conservation. In addition, methods and indicators for participatory monitoring and evaluation of ecosystem services and biodiversity will be developed.

Action plans will then be formulated with stakeholders to monitor the health of highland aquatic resources; develop and promote wise-use, and where necessary livelihoods diversification, to enhance poor livelihoods and conservation; integrate sustainable and wise-use, livelihoods diversification and conservation with watershed management priorities throughout the region. Action plans will be implemented by stakeholders at four sites displaying high biodiversity in Asia and the ecosystem, livelihoods and institutional impacts assessed through participatory monitoring and evaluation.

Best practices aimed at conserving biodiversity and sustaining ecosystem services will be communicated to potential users to promote uptake and enhanced policy formulation.