The general scientific objectives of HighArcs, supported by the European Commission under FP7 Improving observing systems for water resource management and Biodiversity values, sustainable use and livelihoods, are to 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). 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. 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; 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.