Field: Biodiversity monitoring
Global Technical function: Managing
Technical Function Unit: Strategic planning
Geographic Area: United Kingdom


The Highland Aquatic Resources Conservation and Sustainable Development (HighARCS) project carried out detailed multidisciplinary situation analysis assessments of highland aquatic resources, focused on values, livelihoods, conservation issues and wise-use options at five sites in Asia. The objective of the project is to ensure the sustainable conservation of aquatic resources, biodiversity and ecosystems by managing them appropriately. An integrated strategic planning approach was adopted to facilitate interactive stakeholder participation and instigate an interdisciplinary and integrated approach to biodiversity, ecosystem services and livelihoods and policy assessment.

In the field of highland aquatic resource management and biodiversity monitoring, little has been done to ensure that new knowledge is accessible for collective decision-making and development of policies for equitable use and conservation, especially in more vulnerable areas in developing countries. There is a lack of coordination between communities that depend on highland aquatic ecosystems, associated stakeholders and policy makers and a lack of knowledge concerning the interdependence of their actions regarding the management of those resources. The project aims to enhance biodiversity conservation and sustain ecosystem services, thus safeguarding livelihoods and throughout the process document and promote wise-use and Better Management Practices. Project findings, including a toolkit of research and action planning approaches suited to assessing, planning and managing highland aquatic resources will be communicated to potential users to promote uptake and enhanced policy formulation.

The project started on the 1st of January 2009 and the first situation analysis phase was completed in June 2011, the second Integrated Action Planning phase was concluded in June 2012 and following monitoring of action plan implementation and comprehensive publication of findings, the project will finish in December 2013. The project is funded by FP7-ENV and is coordinated by the University of Essex (United Kingdom).

The main outcomes of the project consist of reports corresponding to each phase.

First, Situation Analysis Reports that covered each of the 5 study sites and included the identification of communities depending on highland aquatic resources, their livelihood strategies and appropriated ecosystem services; a study and discussion of the institutional, policy and legal frameworks; a description of the market networks and an identification of the stakeholders, including men, women, girls and boys in order to capture both gendered and generational perspective. Biodiversity assessment across the major river basins where the project sites are located was also undertaken during this phase leading to IUCN Red Listings for aquatic plants, fishes, mollusks, crustaceans, and odonates.

Second, Integrated Action Plans (IAPs) Reports, completed in mid 2012, contained site specific IAPs with assessment from conservation, livelihoods and policy perspectives structured using the Driving Forces, Pressures, State, Impacts and Responses (DPSIR) framework.

Finally, implementation of the IAPs and conclusions will be summarized in the IAPs Implementation Report toward the end of the project. Better Management Practices and promising research and planning methods or tools for conservation and management of highland aquatic resources to reconcile ecosystem services appropriation and biodiversity to ensure livelihoods sustainability will be highlighted and communicated to potential users.

A notable project innovation is the Flagship Species Initiative for the identification of species that are both of conservation concern and important in people’s livelihoods. To better communicate and disseminate the danger of losing such species, the Flagship Species Indicator (FSI) was defined. Flagship species are those that need to be conserved because of imminent ecological threats such as pollution, habitat degradation or over-exploitation and the value they have in terms of livelihoods, associated ecosystem services or economic activity at the project sites. Some of the communication tools that will be used are the fish ruler, fish maturity posters and species information sheets. The intention is to increase the awareness of the targeted groups or specific audiences from local to international levels.

New knowledge and main results of the project are intended to be public. At the moment, analysis of the situation and definition of IAPs have already been done. The implementation of the IAPs is about to start and monitoring is expected to be completed by June 2013. Therefore, the Technology Readiness Level may be estimated to 3 on the TRL scale. The outcomes are intended for communities, stakeholders, highland aquatic resources managers and policy makers (authorities) so they are aware of the highland aquatic resources current situation and they can act accordingly and take into account Better Management Practices identified by the project.