Community Research and Development Information Service - CORDIS

Final Report Summary - HIGHARCS (Highland aquatic resources conservation and sustainable development)

Executive Summary:
HighARCS has formulated an integrated action planning approach that cuts across disciplines and sectors, builds cooperation in the field and develops new forms of partnership with poor upland communities. The approach was designed to facilitate participatory and integrated policy development and tested at sites through the highland areas of Asia (Guangdong, China; Uttarakhand and West Bengal, India; central and northern Vietnam). It aimed to ensure that local needs were prioritised and incorporated with institutions responsible for different levels of planning and implementation. Researchers at all field sites worked in collaboration with local communities and stakeholder groups to facilitate a process of information-exchange and joint assessment and decision-making, and to promote shared accountability. Such a process was conceived to ensure continuity of appropriate and accepted practices after the project ended. A series of capacity-building workshops ensured that the project was inclusive of all marginal stakeholder groups, including women, young people and ethnic communities. Workshops brought together project managers and researchers from both Europe and Asia to share ideas and expertise, including learning about local cultural contexts and relevant gender issues in relation to local livelihoods.

To bridge the science-policy and science-practice interfaces, new knowledge originating from the HighARCS project has been made accessible to a range of stakeholders from farmers and the general public to natural resources managers and policy makers in appropriate formats. To enhance the legacy of the HighARCS project and facilitate the dissemination of integrated action planning practices and outcomes globally, the online Wetland Resources Action Planning (WRAP) toolkit was conceived. The main purpose of the WRAP toolkit was to promote a systematic approach to integrated action planning and to provide a readily accessible suite of integrated wetland assessment tools and examples of outputs, together with insights from lessons learned during the course of the HighARCS project. The WRAP toolkit was designed around the conceptual model of an integrated action planning process (see ‘Figure 1. WRAP toolkit framework’ attached). Central to the WRAP toolkit is integrated action planning as a systematic process, consisting of integrated wetland assessments (2.1), integrated action plan formulation (2.2) and implementation and joint monitoring and evaluation (2.3). Principles to ensure an integrated approach throughout the process are presented (1) and examples of HighARCS project outputs are provided (3.1) together reflections and lessons learned (3.2), to better inform potential users concerning the opportunities and limitations to adopting such an approach.

Project Context and Objectives:
Billions of people depend on aquatic resources, however, an estimated 50% of wetlands have been lost and more than 20% of freshwater species are known to be threatened. The Highland Aquatic Resources Conservation and Sustainable Development (HighARCS) project aimed to address these issues in the highland regions of Asia where dependence for livelihoods is especially high. While the link between environmental degradation and increased vulnerability of poor communities is well known, only limited information was available concerning communities in highland areas, and even less regarding those dependent on aquatic resources and associated ecosystem services. Moreover, the role of aquatic resources was not well understood in relation to livelihoods among food-insecure households. Given the dynamic nature and high vulnerability of aquatic resources, particularly in light of global climate change, there was an urgent need to consolidate and enhance knowledge in a number of key areas. Notably concerning the significance and conservation status of biodiversity in upland ecosystems in terms of the local ecology and regional socio-economic systems and regarding changing conditions in upland environments and conflicting demands of those dependent on these resources.

Objectives for the HighARCS project included using an innovative interdisciplinary approach to develop knowledge on the importance of aquatic resources in highland areas of Asia (Guangdong, China; Uttarakhand and West Bengal, India; central and northern Vietnam) and to formulate Integrated Action Plans addressing conservation, livelihoods and policy concerns with local communities and key stakeholders. Better Management Practices aimed at conserving biodiversity and sustaining ecosystem services have been communicated to potential users to promote uptake and enhanced policy formulation, notably through the development of the online Wetland Resources Action Planning (WRAP) toolkit (www.wraptoolkit.org). HighARCS adopted an approach that cut across disciplines and sectors, built cooperation in the field and developed new forms of partnership with poor upland communities. The approach involved participatory and integrated planning to promote the conservation and sustainable development of highland aquatic resources. It ensures that local needs are prioritised and incorporated with institutions responsible for different levels of planning and implementation. Researchers at all field sites worked to encourage local ownership of the project and outcomes through promoting interactive participation based on information-exchange, reflection and shared accountability. Such a process should ensure continuity of appropriate and accepted practices. A series of capacity-building workshops ensured that the project was inclusive of all marginal stakeholder groups, including women, young people and ethnic communities. Workshops brought together project managers and researchers from both Europe and Asia to share ideas and expertise, including learning about local cultural contexts and relevant gender issues in relation to local livelihoods.

The HighARCS project comprised three phases of work: (1) an interdisciplinary situation analysis of highland aquatic resources at the five sites in Asia, focusing on functionality, management, exploitation, and biodiversity and conservation issues; (2) in-depth assessment of aquatic biodiversity, including its associated livelihoods and social institutions at the selected sites leading to the development and formulation of integrated action plans; (3) implementation of action plans with community members, including monitoring progress and evaluating the process. The HighARCS 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 was concluded in December 2013. The project was funded by FP7-ENV and was coordinated by the University of Essex (United Kingdom), with partnership with the Roskilde University (Denmark), University of Stirling (United Kingdom), International Union for Conservation of Nature, Species Programme (Switzerland), Centre for the Development of Human Initiatives (India), Institute of Environmental Studies and Wetland Management (India), Centre for Environmental Management and Participatory Development (India), Research Institute for Aquaculture No. 1 (Vietnam), South China Agricultural University (China), and FishBase Information and Research Group (Philippines).

Key Deliverables for the project consisted 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 assessments across the major river basins where the project sites were located were also undertaken during this phase leading to IUCN Red Listings for aquatic plants, fish, molluscs, crustaceans and odonates. Second, Integrated Action Plan (IAP) 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 were summarized in appropriate project communication media and activities.

Research and planning methods and tools for integrated action planning to conserve and better management of highland aquatic resources to reconcile ecosystem services appropriation and biodiversity to ensure livelihoods sustainability have been highlighted and communicated to potential users, notably in the WRAP toolkit (www.wraptoolkit.org). An important project innovation was 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. Communication tools developed in this regard were the fish ruler, fish maturity posters and species information sheets. The intention was to increase the awareness of the targeted groups or specific audiences from local to international levels. Project outputs were summarised in appropriate formats for communities, stakeholders, highland aquatic resources managers and policy makers (authorities) to enhance their awareness of the current situation of highland aquatic resources so they can act accordingly and take into account appropriate approaches to integrated action planning for the conservation and wise-use of highland aquatic resources and wetlands in Asia and globally.

The HighARCS project is expected to make a significant contribution to national and international knowledge-bases. This has included developing an in-depth understanding of the major threats to aquatic resources in each of the three countries and conducting RedList assessments for each of the sites using IUCN's Species Information System (SIS) to identify rare or threatened species for priority conservation. Moreover, HighARCS has provided a platform to link SIS with the global fish information service, FishBase, to facilitate two-way information exchange, as well as the expansion of both databases to incorporate resource-relevant livelihoods and policy information, such as market uses and legislative restrictions. At the core of the HighARCS project is the development of integrated action plans that combine aquatic conservation objectives with livelihood needs and priorities for development. Prior to the HighARCS project there were no universally agreed methods for action planning, particularly in contested situations where there are competing resource demands. HighARCS researchers worked together to share their experiences and adapt existing approaches to formulate an action planning process that is suited to the integrated, multi-stakeholder nature of HighARCS.

The culmination of the five-year HighARCS project was the development of an integrated action planning toolkit on wetland conservation and management, which can be adapted to help provide bespoke solutions to protect valuable ecosystems around the globe. The Wetland Resources Action Planning (WRAP) toolkit (www.wraptoolkit.org) was launched at events in China, India and Vietnam and offers researchers, technical planners and policy-makers a systematic approach to conserve and to sustainably manage wetland ecosystems and biodiversity. Wetlands cover a wide spectrum of environments – from areas of marsh and fen to reservoirs and mountain lakes – and the toolkit provides a suite of methods and practices, together with insights from lessons learned, to better inform potential users about the opportunities and limitations to adopting such an approach. Rather than offering a prescriptive approach to protecting the biodiversity of these areas, the WRAP toolkit offers ideas and principles which help formulate integrated action plans to promote biodiversity conservation through sustainable use of any of these wetland types, irrespective of site scale or location. It is then hoped that local communities can embrace the principles of the toolkit to develop their own bespoke solutions to protect their ecosystems.

Biodiversity in the world’s ecosystems is declining at an alarming rate due to increased human activities. This loss of biodiversity has a significant, detrimental effect upon the state of the natural environment upon which human communities depend. When undertaking an assessment of ecosystem services, the WRAP toolkit will help users consider the people who directly depend on the ecosystem for their livelihoods alongside preserving their socio-cultural heritage. The tools have been developed and tested over five years at sites in China, India and Vietnam through the Highland Aquatic Resources Conservation and Sustainable Development (HighARCS) project.

This major initiative focused on highlands in Asia as they often harbor endemic species not found elsewhere or species threatened with extinction globally, such as the marbled eel in China and the golden mahseer and snow trout in India. What is concerning environmentalists is that these valuable ecosystems are increasingly under pressure from deforestation, land-use change, overfishing, flooding and worsening climate change impacts. Principles of integrated action planning should be transferable to other geographical locations and in the context of the UK and Europe the WRAP toolkit could make a significant contribution to better planning and coordinating the management of wetlands, catchments and coastal zones in line with requirements established under the European Union Biodiversity Strategy to 2020 and Water Framework and Marine Strategy Framework Directives. Integrated action planning could assist wetland managers, and, in particular, those responsible for nature reserves and Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSIs) in reconciling biodiversity conservation with continued access by the public and other user groups.

Project Results:
3.1. HighARCS Integrated Assessment and Action Planning Approach
3.1.1. An Integrated Approach
An “integrated approach” was fundamental to the HighARCS project approach, and means that for all the disciplines that need to be considered for wetland resource conservation and sustainable use, such as biodiversity, livelihoods (including gender and age inclusivity), ecosystem services, sustainable energy provision, economics and policy are considered together from the start when developing wetland management plans. Springate-Baginsky et al. (2009) noted that ‘to be effective, equitable and sustainable in practice, wetland management responses must be informed by an understanding of all elements, including their mutual causality and interconnectivity.’

An integrated approach also:
• Supports efficient research and planning. An integrated approach reduces the research and field visits (and respondent fatigue) as rather than having separate teams assessing only one element, integrated teams and field visits can be undertaken.
• Reduces contradictory actions. As all elements are considered when developing management actions, actions that support one aspect (e.g. biodiversity) but harm another (e.g. livelihoods) are avoided.
• Encourages a multidisciplinary approach. Often with the development of wetland management plans one element is comprehensively considered while only assumptions are made regarding the others.

3.1.2. Stakeholder Engagement
From the outset of a wetland assessment exercise, it is important to identify and involve the multiple national, regional and local stakeholders living in the area or otherwise influencing or being influenced by the situation. Just as relevant as describing the physical aspects of the wetlands and the aquatic resources in a given area or watershed, is the mapping out of who lives there, who uses and manages the resources, who controls the management practices, who depends on the resources for their livelihoods, and who influences the resources through their legal positions, economic activities or everyday life practices. Their knowledge, understanding and opinions about management concerns, objectives, and issues are crucial to take into account when making an analysis of a current situation in view of identifying which management issues are to be addressed.

The importance given to stakeholder involvement is characteristic for communicative approaches to planning and planning theories. Involving stakeholders in all the steps of the assessment and planning processes has many advantages. It brings the planners and central-level decision-makers closer to the reality lived by the people in the area. It allows for bringing local knowledge into the recognized knowledge base informing the decision-making. It also creates a social situation where the state of the resource, drivers, pressures and impacts can be identified and the multiple management issues and response options be brought to everybody’s attention, and where viewpoints on this can be advocated, debated, discussed and negotiated.

As a reader of this toolkit, you may have different entry points, concerns or roles in relation to wetland assessments. You may belong to a local group of farmers or fishers who wish to take up some issue; you may be professional planners employed by local authorities; you may come from an international or a local NGO concerned about sustainable development; or having a concern from some different position. In this toolkit, the methods and tools given to allow stakeholder participation in the planning process are mostly intended for academic researchers or technical planners who are not familiar with such tools. If you belong to a local community group, you may read this section if you are curious to know how the planners and researchers talk about how to work with you. Maybe it could inspire your own initiatives in producing guidelines for people like yourselves on how to work more efficiently with planners and researchers in order to promote and address your own concerns and ideas.

3.1.3. Gender and Age Inclusivity
In the past, approaches to development were criticised for being male-dominated and gender blind. These critiques began in the 1970s but it was not until the 1990s that gender issues were more regularly recognised as relevant to development. Now in the 21st century gender tends to be integrated into most development thinking. In contrast, issues relating to age and generation continue to be marginalised in development. Children and young people participate in important ways to the sustainability of both their household and community, yet their contributions are often overlooked. Failure to incorporate children and young people’s perspectives regarding development can lead to negative consequences for their lives.

Furthermore, it is necessary to understand patterns of intergenerational change in order to assess the potential impacts of development processes across the life course. For example, partly as a result of the Millennium Development Goals, globally there has been a growing emphasis on the education of young people. However, their increased educated status is not necessarily resulting in better paid urban employment which remains competitive with low wages and long hours. Thus changing livelihood transitions of youth add to the burden of the older generations, particularly older women, in rural areas who are losing the traditional labour contributions of young people whilst not being compensated with remittances from well paid urban jobs (Punch and Sugden 2013). A consideration of generational issues reveals the importance of exploring age relations across the life course as well as relationally between the generations (Hopkins and Pain 2007).

In order to promote reconciliation between conservation, sustainable livelihoods and development policy, it is crucial to understand not only how different communities and even wealth groups within communities utilise aquatic resources, but also the divisions within households on the basis of both gender and age. Intra-household divisions of labour are well understood regarding divergent gender roles, but are only recently beginning to take account of children’s contributions. The distribution of resources and decision-making power within households is also based on gender and age. Despite some change in recent years intra-household labour divisions and resource allocation tend to be unequal which is why it is important to develop an understanding of the gendered and generational dynamics of households and communities. Given that gender has been more mainstreamed into development processes than age, the following points summarise the key reasons why it is crucial to include the perspectives of children and young people:

• Children are an important social group in their own right who should be considered alongside adults in research and development projects.
• Children are not merely passive recipients of adults’ actions but social actors who actively contribute to the wellbeing of their households and communities.
• The diversity of childhoods needs to be recognised as children’s lives vary according to age, birth order, gender, ethnicity, disability and class.

In order to mainstream gender and age within HighARCS two training workshops were conducted with each of the host research teams. The first workshop explored the concepts and theories of Participation, Age, Gender and Livelihoods, which enabled Gender and Age Framework Analysis to be designed and incorporated into the local teams’ research strategies. The second training workshop, Action Planning and Research, focused on methodological issues, in particular those relating to the collection and analysis of qualitative data.

Qualitative research methods tend to be more suitable for developing an understanding of issues that are sensitive to gender and age inclusivity. In order to understand the gendering and generationing of intra-household dynamics, we recommend conducting separate focus groups with women, men, girls and boys. This is to enable the views of different social groups to be heard whilst also exploring gender and age specific issues. As well as conducting a series of focus groups with women, men, girls and boys, the HighARCS teams spent extended periods of time in the communities to build rapport with local people and gain an insight into their lives (using the ethnographic methods of participant observation: writing field notes and a reflective field diary).

Given that many research teams conducting projects and developing action plans on wetland resources are likely to consist mainly of natural and physical scientists with expertise in quantitative methods, it is worth considering employing a qualitative researcher from a social science background who can spend time at all the field sites, travelling to work with all the research teams involved. HighARCS employed a postdoctoral research fellow for the main two year phase of data generation so that he could guide the qualitative data collection and analysis as well as ensure that gender and age were fully integrated throughout the process (Punch and Sugden 2014).

Thus, it is important to recognise that access to livelihood resources and aquatic ecosystems is mediated by structural power relations of class, gender and age which impact differentially on the wellbeing of men, women, girls and boys. In the past, development tended to be perceived from the perspective of adult men, but now the views and experiences of women, children and young people must also be taken into account.

3.1.4. Communication Strategy
Communication plays an invaluable and integral role in sustainable development projects with an integrated approach such as in the HighARCS project. The important processes of awareness building, interaction, exchange of information, technology distribution, knowledge sharing, partnership development and community participation conducted in the project are all facilitated by communication. Success in achieving targets and goals is a function of the kind and the quality of communication that happens within the project.

In the case of the HighARCS Project, communication played an integral role from the beginning to its conclusion. For the effective management of the project, information was exchanged and dialogue continued among the multidisciplinary project partners throughout the project life.

At the level of the site teams, they had to engage the participation of the community. This entailed: creating awareness among local stakeholders of highland aquatic resources; consulting, getting feedback and validating research outputs with them; negotiating and building partnerships with these stakeholders; and participatory planning and implementation of their integrated action plans.

The eventual findings and outputs of the project also had to be transformed to appropriate formats and communicated to key local and national level stakeholders, as well as other groups interested in wetland resource action planning. While all these processes were happening, a mechanism was employed to monitor and evaluate progress against stated objectives of project activities and outputs. All these activities and processes central to project development and implementation involved communication.

The communication strategy used in HighARCS hinges on the participation between and among the institutional partners directly involved in the project, community and stakeholder engagement in the project sites and the dissemination of information to the general public. The following are the modes of communication in HighARCS:

• Communication among partners through emails, workshops, project management steering meetings, skype, project website, online WRAP toolkit
• Communication between partners with site teams and their stakeholders: through field visits, one-on-one dialogue with key informants as well as group meetings and local workshops, special events like school contests and public fairs
• Communication between partners and the general public including particularly those involved in wetland resource action initiatives and related fields: through brochures; posters; facebook; website; online WRAP toolkit; attendance in external meetings, conferences, and public events


3.2. HighARCS Integrated Wetland Assessment Approach
3.2.1. Biodiversity Assessment
Biodiversity plays a key role on the provision of ecosystem services, through underpinning ecosystem processes and also as a final good or service in its own right (Mace et al. 2012). However biodiversity, and in particular from freshwater systems, continues to be lost at an unprecedented rate (Dudgeon et al. 2006, Hoffman et al. 2010). As biodiversity declines or disappears from wetlands the benefits to people are degraded or lost, often impacting the poorest communities most. Despite this the development of wetlands across the world usually focus on a limited number of goals, such as the provision of water for drinking, irrigation and hydropower in order to meet the Millennium Development Goals, and ignore the impact to biodiversity and therefore other ecosystem services. Therefore it is critical that biodiversity is built into any wetland assessments and management plan.

Through the identification of the biodiversity (species) that are present within wetlands, you can better:
• Identify which species are important to livelihoods (through direct use and other ecosystem services). Often biodiversity is generalised into broad categories such as ‘fish’ or ‘plants’.
• Develop conservation or sustainable use management plans as species often need to be the target of actions/management, as each species may require different conservation measures depending on their biological requirements and life histories.
• Identify the conservation status of biodiversity at the site
• Monitor the impacts of conservation and sustainable use management plans, through using relevant species indicators

3.2.2. Ecosystem Services Valuation
Ecosystem services are the benefits people obtain from ecosystems. These include provisioning services such as food and water; regulating services such as flood and disease control; cultural services such as spiritual, recreational, and cultural benefits; and supporting services, such as nutrient cycling, that maintain the conditions for life on Earth (Millennium Ecosystem Assessment 2005).

Wetlands in their natural state are often seen as worthless, with their only value in their conversion to more profitable uses such as agriculture or power provision. Often when management decisions are taken that impact wetlands, consideration of the values from the majority of the ecosystem services (especially the non-marketed goods and services) that they provide are not taken. This does not just underestimate the importance of wetlands, it also marginalises the (often poor) groups who depend on these values (Emerton 2009). Therefore, to better inform management decisions an assessment of the variety of ecosystem services and their values to all stakeholders is needed.

This section of the toolkit (mostly taken from Emerton 2009), includes an overview to wetland valuation, a range of methods through which valuation can be made (both economic and non-economic), a review of research design techniques and requirements, analysis of wetland valuation data and the mapping of ecosystem services. Within the HighARCS project, a non-economic participatory valuation technique was undertaken – see HighARCS Ecosystem service valuation - training presentation in the Tools section. This approach has advantages when working with subsistence based economies, as it allows people to define wetland values within the context of their own perceptions, needs and priorities rather than according to externally-imposed categories or market prices (Emerton 2009). The “$” value of a service (the aim through economic valuations) often has little relevance to these subsistence based (non-market) economies and can undervalue a services ‘importance’ to the communities.

3.2.3. Livelihoods Assessment
Major driving forces facing developing countries include industrialisation, globalisation, population growth, rural-urban migration and climate change, resulting in impacts on biodiversity, ecosystems and livelihoods, in particular the livelihoods of poor people, and increasingly in vulnerable upland and highland areas. Although the linkages between environmental degradation and heightened vulnerability for poor communities are well known, only limited information is available concerning communities in highland areas, and even less regarding those dependent on aquatic resources and associated ecosystem services in such settings. Furthermore, the role of aquatic resources, whether appropriated to irrigate agriculture, sustain fisheries or support small-scale aquaculture in poor livelihoods and food-insecure households is not well understood. Given the dynamic nature of highland aquatic resources, due to seasonality, climate induced shocks or anthropogenic trends, including global warming, there is an urgent need to develop improved knowledge of changing, and potentially conflicting demands. Adopting an appropriate framework to guide the assessment of diverse livelihoods can help ensure a more complete understanding of constraints and opportunities for different user groups is developed. The Sustainable Livelihoods framework formulated by DFID constituted a useful example.

It is apparent that households and communities can have a range of capitals or assets (financial, human, natural, physical, social) upon which they depend, and can draw upon to structure their livelihoods and support social organisation. It is important that issues of both gender and generation are central to the development of livelihoods. Relationships between men and women, and between adults and children, need to be taken into account when devising policies and programmes to address inequalities within communities. Aspects of vulnerability, adverse trends in environmental health or commodity process, or sudden environmental and socio-economic shocks must also be assessed and socially marginalised, poor or food-insecure households will be particularly at risk. The role of policies, institutions and processes in governing what is permissible and possible is highlighted and integrated policy assessment can reveal opportunities for enhanced policy formation to enhance poor livelihoods whilst protecting biodiversity and ecosystem services that ensure the wellbeing of people, both locally, throughout catchments and globally. Major constraints to better informed policy-making and management of highland aquatic ecosystems in Asia are the lack of relevant information on the value stakeholders ascribe to such systems and the absence of a balanced assessment of biodiversity and ecosystem services, livelihoods and multiple uses. In order to ensure that effective development policies and programmes are created which benefit all sectors of the population, issues of both gender and age must also be considered. Integrated action planning and wetland assessment could address these concerns.

3.2.4. Policy Assessment
A wetlands policy assessment is an investigation into the legal frameworks, institutional set-ups and enforcement practices which govern the management of the natural resources of a given wetland area and access to the ecosystem services produced. They may be Environmental Protection Acts, Forestry Codes, Fisheries regulations or Land Use Regulations which set specific standards or limits to what activities can be allowed or how the wetlands may be used. There may be government programmes to promote livelihoods or conserve biodiversity. These rules and programmes may be well intentioned in order to provide the framework for the wise use of the resources, but they may not be enforced adequately due to lack of enforcement capacity. There may be a lack of competent or sufficient staff. Sometimes different parts of the legal system have competing or contradicting contents. This implies a need for extensive efforts of coordination and may sometimes lead to institutional conflicts at the detriment of wetlands management efficiency. Or there may oppositely be a lack of clear rules and regulations, which leaves the enforcing institutions without direction and therefore powerless to avoid a deterioration of the resource, such as for example over-fishing.

Policies, governance, institutions, and markets are important to understand because they are mediating what rights or claims each of us have to access the natural resources, the ways we are allowed to manage them, and the often conflicting or competing purposes for which we are doing so. Strategies for better conserving natural resources and biodiversity cannot be devised without understanding how current policies, institutions, markets and governance structures interact with each other to shape our management practices of natural resources. The economic interests and livelihood concerns of various stakeholder groups are influenced by the policies, and at the same time they are also behind the processes which have led to current policies.

A major task to do is to compile information on the specific legal frameworks actually in place concerning the environment as mentioned above. But legal frameworks covering other economic sectors such as forestry, agriculture, fisheries, transportation, urbanization, energy provision or industries are important to identify, depending on the locality. It is important to remember to look at legal frameworks at different scales: internationally, nationally, provincially, and locally – and how these scales interact. It is also important to identify through which institutions and organisations these frameworks are enforced or practised. Who are the institutional actors? Next, you need to study how these frameworks are applied, and observe any competing, conflicting or contradictory legal texts, and how adequate they are to cover all the management situations observed, how they are interpreted by stakeholders and authorities, and how effectively they are implemented.
Finally, you need to conclude on the needs for changes or further development of the legal frameworks, building capacity or advocating for allocation of additional staff and funding for enforcement, for improved coordination or for mediating conflicts.

As a part of the policy assessment, you should also be considering the market conditions. Does a market exist for the various aquatic resources in your area? Which resources or ecosystem services are managed through market conditions? How important are they? What are the rules governing marketed goods from the aquatic resources? How does that influence natural resource management patterns and how does this impact the state of the resources?

3.3. Development of Integrated Action Plans
3.3.1. Joint Strategic Planning
Integrated action planning is an approach that is well suited to engaging stakeholders in joint assessment and decision-making with respect to aquatic resources planning and management. There is an urgent need to reconcile the continued use of highland aquatic resources with biodiversity conservation. Maintaining stocks and flows of ecosystem services is necessary to sustain broader societal systems. Given this background, the HighARCS project realised the need to formulate an integrated action planning approach which could accommodate multiple stakeholder perspectives and:

• address perceived conservation, livelihoods and policy needs and deficiencies;

• evaluate proposed actions with regards potential negative impacts on conservation and livelihoods or conflicts with policy and existing management arrangements;
• identify appropriate indicators relevant to conservation, livelihoods and policy for monitoring and assessing impacts of Integrated Action Plans (IAPs).

A series of eight steps to enable a cyclical process of adaptive and integrated action planning were identified, progressing from stakeholder assessment and engagement, through to joint evaluation of impacts and revised target setting, where the process begins again. Tools specifically to support joint strategic planning are summarised below and links to appropriate HighARCS project outputs and other relevant resources provided to promote the uptake of integrated action planning.

The HighARCS project navigated the boundary between development and research striving for positive changes in terms of biodiversity, ecosystems services and livelihoods in the study sites, whilst in parallel analysing and evaluating the process to draw out new knowledge on the potential of action planning in the highlands of Asia and lessons to support others in adopting IAP in other settings. Integrated action planning proved to be a valuable research process, enabling the project to facilitate a process of joint assessment and decision-making with stakeholders. Care is needed, however, to avoid raising false expectation, especially where initiatives are predominantly research oriented with little resources to fund development activities. Despite this, outcomes of integrated action planning should be of value to participants and supplementary activities should be identified during the implementation phase to address resource and support needs. It should also be acknowledge that local level planning initiatives are ongoing in most locations and imposition of integrated action planning may be regarded as an unhelpful of backward step or may not fit with constitutional norms. Conversely, the introduction of integrated action planning could provide a legitimate means to challenge business-as-usual and preconceived ideas, and constitute an adaptable approach that can be implemented at a range of scales to promote wise-use of aquatic resources and biodiversity conservation.

3.3.2. Organization of Activities
The development of the Integrated Action Plans was organized by the HighARCS site teams.
All the teams followed the overall steps and procedures described in the Joint Strategic Planning.
The more specific way of organizing these steps and procedures varied from team to team, according to their location, the type of institution they were, and:

• The team in West Bengal (CDHI) was able to add the HighARCS activities into its main practices of organization, training and capacity building with local village groups. This partner had its main office facilities quite close to the project site, and action plan making with these village people was an already on-going practice. A well-developed organizational structure with local village-based field workers allowed continuity and felt presence at the sites.

• The teams responsible for the Uttarakhand site and the two Vietnamese sites faced the challenge of operating in a different state or (for Vietnam) very far from where their offices were located. The team responsible for the Uttarakhand site was based in a different state, West Bengal. The members of the team came from a West Bengal state government research institute and a local NGO specialised in wetlands management and development. In spite of the fact that CEMPD and IESWM were located in a different state these two organisations could manage their operation successfully and effectively with the help of concerned state government, district administration, local bodies like Nainital Nagar Palika and local NGOs at the field site. They could motivate district administrations and other line departments along with local stakeholders associated with the conservation and management of water resources in adapting and implementing the IAP in conformity with the local situation. The Vietnamese team was based in the capital Hanoi and its members belonged to a government research institute specialised in aquaculture. For both teams, this meant that contacts with local stakeholders were more difficult and therefore less frequent than the case of the CDHI team. Also these two teams did not have an existing organizational set-up with local field workers. They therefore had to make several trips to complete the assignments and ensure that time spent at the sites was efficiently managed and productive.

• The Chinese team came from a major university. The team also lived quite far from the site, but less far from their site than the Uttarakhand and Vietnamese teams. The access was easier and travel time considerably shorter than for the two mentioned other teams, and the Chinese team was by far the biggest one of the HighARCS teams. Consequently, they were able to undertake frequent travels and get in touch with many different groups of stakeholders.

3.4. Implementation Monitoring and Evaluation
3.4.1. Coordinated Implementation
A clear distinction is needed between the development of Integrated Action Plans and subsequent coordinated implementation where all actions included in IAPs are scrutinized for consistency with overarching principles of biodiversity conservation and the wise-use of aquatic resources, feasibility, conditions required for success and possible threats. Integrated Action Plans should ideally retain all (reasonable) proposals originating from stakeholders during the formulation process so as to reflect the multiple perspectives regarding problems being encountered by disparate stakeholder groups and the diversity of responses conceived at different geographic and administrative scales. Approaches to facilitate Coordinated Implementation were drawn from a range of sources and summarised in a HighARCS project guidance document ‘Guidelines for planning and reporting on implementation and monitoring strategies agreed for IAPs for HighARCS sites in China, India and Vietnam’ (Bunting et al., 2012) to ensure similar approaches were invoked across the different study sites.

Building on rapport and working relationships established during the IAP development phase, approaches such as SMART, STEPS and SWOT should be applied to prioritise actions and identify conditions needed to proceed with successful implementation. Actions not suited to immediate implantation should not be dropped from IAPs but further refinement in the formulation of the proposed actions may be required, safeguards might be needed or a delay may be necessary to account for seasonal conditions, for example, or to enable other actions or underlying problems to be addressed prior to proceeding. Where consistency checking highlights fundamental problems it might be argued that such actions should be disregarded but this would not address the underlying problem. Through adopting an integrated assessment process such actions should not be expected in the IAPs but consistency checking could be a useful safeguard, especially where stakeholders representing biodiversity or environmental concerns may not be present in most assessment sites.

3.4.2. Monitoring
Monitoring is a crucial aspect of any action planning process. There are two types of ‘monitoring’ incorporated within this toolkit:
• Results Monitoring – Monitoring the effectiveness (or success) of the activities, to identify if they having the desired effect. For example, monitoring water quality, if the Integrated Action Plan (IAP) activities are targeting the reduction of water pollution.

• Process Monitoring – Monitoring the implementation of the Integrated Action Plan (IAP) activities, rather than the results. For example, monitoring the project interactions with stakeholders, that activities are running on time, and external influences.

In both cases, if set up and adopted correctly, monitoring will provide feedback to inform the development of any changes that may be needed to improve the actions/activities implementation or desired impact.

Results monitoring (and also some process monitoring) is built around ‘indicators’, which are measures that can be monitored, and can be quantitative or qualitative, and will reflect if your action/activity is achieving its aim. This monitoring section focuses on the monitoring of the IAPs once they have been developed. Indicators (for activity results and some processes) will already have been identified through the IAP development phase (2.2 of the WRAP Toolkit). Process monitoring is much less formal than results monitoring and can be done using a variety of methods, from keeping reflective journals, or formal records of meetings and stakeholder interactions. The purpose is to provide qualitative evidence to identify where the problems implementing the activities are arising.

In an integrated action plan, it is also imperative that the monitoring strategy is designed using an integrated approach, i.e. by experts from different disciplines (e.g. conservation, livelihood, economics, policy, etc). This will allow a single well designed indicator to collate information that is useful to multiple disciplines. The ‘Monitoring tools selection matrix’ is a key tool in this aspect. The results and process monitoring findings will then be used in the following ‘Evaluation’ stage of the WRAP toolkit to identify any corrective actions that may need to be taken.

3.4.3. Evaluation
All work plans established for the action plans include a time frame within which the planned outputs and targeted results or impacts are expected to be achieved. At the end of that period, as the last step of the action planning process, a joint evaluation is arranged. The purpose is to compare the observed outputs, results and impacts achieved to outputs, results and impacts expected. To do so, events such as final stakeholder workshops or small group sessions with the stakeholder groups which have been involved or impacted by specific actions at the sites can be arranged. But other settings such as household interviews or focus group discussions can also be used for evaluation purposes. For such events, it is important that they have been agreed to at the start of the action plan implementation, and that they are announced to all well in advance and subsequently organised jointly with all the stakeholders. In practice, this may not always be possible, but then the evaluation should be planned at least in close collaboration between the research team and the local partner having the main responsibility for the implementation of the given action plan.

It is also important that the purpose and procedure of the evaluation is clear to all participants before commencing the actual evaluation. What do we mean by evaluation? What do we want to evaluate? By which (or whose) criteria? What do we need to know to do it? The basic task is of course is to assess whether the expected outputs, results and impacts were achieved or not. But it might also be interesting to try to reflect with the participants about how to explain the positive (or unsatisfactory) results, in order to become wiser and identify follow-up actions. In practical terms, the setting should be carefully thought about to make sure all participants are comfortable in speaking out. The actual organization of the evaluation must fit the local setting. Should you organise a round table plenary inside an office building with presentations and discussions of results, or would it be more relaxed and productive to make observations and have discussions as you walk together to visit the site of the action plan? Are the involved stakeholder groups comfortable in sitting together, or would it be better to sit down with each of them in focus groups or by use of household interviews? If you have opted for a formal stakeholder workshop, then it requires that you anticipate the need for a division of roles where competent facilitators and rapporteurs should be identified beforehand. The detailed organisation of the meeting should be done with them.

Potential Impact:
4.1. HighARCS Project Outputs
The HighARCS project produced a range of Outputs that can be categorized in different ways in terms of their relationship to the integrated action planning process and their potential usefulness to prospective users of the WRAP toolkit.
Outputs, such as workshop proceedings and project reports, can be regarded as Evidence of project activity and proof of process concept; these have been linked in the HighARCS Project Outputs matrix to relevant process and tools contained in the WRAP toolkit.
Selected Outputs also constitute new knowledge and Results in terms of scientific findings and these have been framed in the HighARCS Project Outputs matrix against the HighARCS Research Questions presented here.

Overarching question:
• How can highland aquatic resources be sustainably managed and conserved while accommodating for the livelihoods of poor and food insecure communities?

Conservation:
• What is the existing aquatic biodiversity in the selected field sites?
• How can these aquatic ecosystems be managed to secure the sustainable provision of ecosystem services to ensure water quality and the conservation of biodiversity?

Livelihoods:
• What are the dynamics of the multiple livelihood strategies according to gender and age in the selected field sites and how do these strategies utilise resources derived from aquatic ecosystems?
• How can resource dependent livelihoods be ecologically sustainable and at the same time permit equitable local development opportunities?

Policies and Institutions:
• In each selected field site, what are the existing institutions and legislations which mediate access to aquatic resources at multiple scales and levels of government? How do conflicts evolve and relate to decision-making processes?
• What policies and institutional frameworks are needed to resolve conflicts between multiple stakeholders and ensure sustainable resource management whilst maximising local income generating activities?

Planning:
• What is the best approach to facilitating interactive participation in assessment, decision-making and planning with respect to aquatic biodiversity conservation and wise-use? Is this the best approach? What lessons can be learnt about the research process of HighARCS?
• Can social, economic and biological indicators be identified that are appropriate for local communities to assess change? What are the limitations and advantages to such an approach?
• How can monitoring of aquatic ecosystems, livelihoods, institutions be established and sustained locally? Who should be responsible? What to do if something changes? Is HighARCS sustainable in the long-term and what does it depend on?

Outputs that convey the Impacts arising from Integrated Action Plan development and implementation, for example, changes occurring on the ground in terms of biodiversity, ecosystems and livelihoods were also produced. Finally Outputs that demonstrate higher level Outcomes regarding planning and management practice and policy-making and bridging the science-policy interface as a result of combined Integrated Action Planning, associated learning, knowledge sharing, communication and dissemination are highlighted in the HighARCS Project Outputs matrix.

The outputs matrix has been organized in chronological order starting with outputs concerning the Integrated Approach (Section 1) followed by outputs from each of the three main project phases: Wetland Assessment, Development of Integrated Action Plans (IAPs) and Implementation, Monitoring & Evaluation (Section 2). There may be perceived duplication of outputs within the matrix due to the integrated content of many of the outputs. Such outputs can thus relate to more than one ‘section’. The entries appear in alphabetical order according to the title of the output (left hand column); and the output categories (evidence, results, impacts and outcomes) in the right hand column. The output categories respond to different user situations and needs of information:

• Evidence of project activities and proof of process concepts is a useful category for those who are interested in auditing the HighARCS project as compared to the Project Document, or who need to get an overview of which activities were undertaken and concepts applied at the various steps of the process.
• Results in terms of scientific findings to the HighARCS Research Questions is a useful category for policy-makers and practitioners of aquatic resource management, who are interested in what new knowledge has been generated at the various stages of the project.
• Impacts of the project action plans is a category you would like to consult if you wish to focus on what changes the project produced on biodiversity, wetland resource qualities, livelihoods, or policies when looking at specific action plans.
• Outcomes of the project activities on aquatic resource management practices and improvements of the aquatic resources, ecosystem services and livelihoods at the HighARCS sites is a category which is particularly useful for users interested in achieving certain sustainability goals or policies. Outcome themes are organized according to the main policy targets (categories of indicators from the action plans: biodiversity conservation; livelihoods; policy).

Users interested in consulting outputs from a particular site is invited to click on the Outputs by Site tab. Outputs are organized according to the same order as described above. User can look for specific local outputs in local languages under this tab as well.

4.2. HighARCS Reflections and Lessons Learned

4.2.1. Reflections
In this section, we will share some of our reflections on the HighARCS project. The reflections are divided into two levels: (1) HighARCS as a process of Multi-partner and Multi-disciplinary collaboration; and (2) HighARCS as a case of integrated action research and planning for sustainable use of aquatic resources. The reflections are summaries of scientific papers already published or in pipeline from HighARCS, or what the teams have reported as their reflections or have responded when interviewed about this. More reflections will follow as more scientific papers are produced in the coming months

Process of Multi-partner and Multi-disciplinary Working
Research funding has increasingly moved in favour of large, multi-partner, multi-disciplinary and multi-site research projects. When research involves multiple research teams at separate institutions, there is a need to consider how lead researchers can ensure their team members are working in synchrony with partners towards common goals, particularly when teams are based in different countries. The reflections in this section focus on one measure which was taken by project leaders in HighARCS to address some of the dilemmas involved in multi-sited, multi-partner research: the employment of a full-time research fellow to work with all of the teams throughout the key segments of the project cycle.

Benefits of employing a ‘floating’ research fellow to work across multiple field sites
For large-scale multi-team projects a full-time travelling research fellow can be a highly valuable tool to help keep the project on a common trajectory by playing an intermediary role, facilitating communication, enhancing the standardization of methods, and contributing to the capacity building of junior team members. By spending time at all sites, a research fellow is well qualified to identify fields where more data is required, ensure results use a set format, while identifying common research design problems. In addition, for multi-disciplinary projects, a full-time research fellow can be employed to focus on a particular strand of research, filling in ‘gaps’ in the disciplinary specialization of the research teams. This enhances cross-site comparison, as it allows one researcher to get much closer to the data being produced in each field site.

Challenges
A full-time floating research fellow is not a catch all solution to meeting the complex demands of multi-disciplinary, multi-partner projects. Being a facilitator is not always straightforward when teams can only be visited periodically, and inter-team communication remains a challenge. This is amplified when working in diverse institutional and cultural contexts across several countries. Furthermore, projects employing a research fellow need to consider how they will overcome the barriers of language, and deal with teams with very different academic needs in terms of disciplinary specialization.

Hiring a research fellow will only be successful if an appropriate candidate can be found with the required skills and competencies to handle such a demanding role. As well as relevant academic abilities, a range of personal attributes are necessary including resilience, willingness to travel, cultural sensitivity, independence, patience, adaptability and flexibility. The skills of trust-making, inter-cultural communication and the facilitation of mutual learning should not be underestimated in order to assure better project outcomes. It is worth bearing in mind that not all researchers automatically possess these attributes for undertaking such a challenging role and the recruitment process should incorporate some difficult scenarios to assess these competencies.

It is important to ensure that projects retain a common direction, disciplinary differences are levelled out and communication between teams remains effective. For this a full-time research fellow can be an invaluable tool, so long as they are inserted into projects with sensitivity, and project leaders are aware of the potential benefits and drawbacks as well as the cost implications and complex power relations this entails.

Reflections on the role of the researchers seen from the site teams
The reflections on the HighARCS action planning experience made by the members of the site teams are included in the HighARCS Deliverable 8.1 country reports. The site team researchers have reflected on their roles in the elaboration of the action plans in the different phases of the process from assessment, through the planning, the assessment of plans, and their implementation & monitoring (evaluations yet to come).

4.2.2. Lessons Learned
In this section, we will share some of lessons learned during the HighARCS project. We distinguish between lessons learned on two levels: (1) HighARCS as a process of Multi-partner and Multi-disciplinary collaboration; and (2) HighARCS as a case of integrated action research and planning for sustainable use of aquatic resources.

The lessons learned are summaries of scientific reports (deliverables) or papers already published or in pipeline from HighARCS, or what the teams have reported as their lessons learned or have responded when interviewed about this. More lessons learned will follow as the final reporting from the sites is being completed and more scientific papers produced during the coming months.

Process of Multi-partner and Multi-disciplinary Working
There are a number of lessons which have been learnt which could increase the effectiveness of a research fellow’s input in future multi-disciplinary, cross-site projects and enhance the development of strategies for collaborative projects to facilitate coordination between research teams.

• It is likely to be more effective if the research fellow’s visits to the in-country teams are short but regular. It is more difficult for a researcher to play a cross-site facilitator role if he/she only visits teams for single extended spells, which would lead to missing key phases of the research. Two or three visits to each team annually makes it easier to identify potential problems at an earlier stage, while also giving each team an equal level of support for key phases of the research process.

• A key recommendation is that, at the application stage, project leaders ensure sufficient funds are provided for extensive travel and fieldwork expenses. Additional travel between countries and sites is most effective if it is coordinated with visits by members of the steering group. This enables a research fellow to directly follow up on the recommendations of the project leaders during in-country visits, and allows for a more efficient use of resources.
• It is helpful to have a clearly written Terms of Reference indicating the role and responsibilities for the research fellow before beginning work with each in-country team. All partners should be involved in the elaboration of the Terms of Reference which should outline the researcher’s expertise, contribution and mutual expectations of the role.
• Employing the research fellow right from the beginning of the project is ideal but may not be practical given the considerable expense of employing a full-time staff member from an early stage, particularly when the workload is likely to be low and dominated by administrative activities and lengthy access negotiations. Furthermore, unless a potential research fellow is involved as a co-applicant before funding is secured, the time taken to recruit one would mean that he or she would inevitably have to start several months into the project cycle.
• It is useful to invite all partners to input regarding the criteria for the research fellow post as well as the interview questions or a suggested written task for the recruitment process in order to assess a wide range of competencies necessary for such a challenging role.
• For a multi-disciplinary project, it might be beneficial to consider employing a natural science research fellow as well as one from the social sciences. The considerable expense of employing a research fellow would have to be balanced up against the particular needs of the project team in terms of existing sets of skills and the multi-disciplinary needs of the project.

The lessons learned by the site teams during the HighARCS action planning experience are included in the HighARCS Deliverable 8.1 country reports. The site team researchers have reported on how well they succeeded with the action plans and what lessons learned and recommendations for follow up action, changed strategies of action or new issues to address in the future.

4.3. Linking Science to Policy
This section highlights the links the HighARCS project has made between science and policy at the local level (i.e. at the HighARCS project sites) and at broader regional and international levels.

Linking science to policy at the HighARCS project sites
The HighARCS projects core activities all built towards bridging the science-policy interface, primarily at the local level within the realms of conservation and development. The project generated scientific data and other qualitative information on the biodiversity, livelihood strategies, ecosystem services, and policies at each site and facilitated joint assessments with local communities and other stakeholders to create action plans which in turn influenced and generated changes in policy at local and in some regional and national levels. See section 3.1 (HighARCS project outputs) of the WRAP toolkit which presents each sites integrated assessments, stakeholder engagement and the development, implementation and monitoring of action plans.

Policy assessments
As a central element in the project’s approach to linking science to policy – and policy to science – has been the undertaking of policy assessments at each site. A wetland policy assessment is an investigation into the legal frameworks, institutional set-ups and enforcement practices which govern the management of the natural resources and ecosystem services of the wetlands in a given area. This includes international, regional, national, provincial, and local scales of governance. A wetlands policy assessment also entails assessments of policies and legal frameworks influencing relevant aspects of socio-economic development and livelihood conditions in the area which, in turn, influence the state of the aquatic resources. The HighARCS policy assessments can be found in the reports on Institutions, Policies and Conflicts in section 3.1 (HighARCS project outputs) of the WRAP toolkit.

Advocacy and dialogue with policy-makers
Close dialogue was maintained with relevant authorities on HighARCS research into the state of wetlands, livelihoods, and institutions and policies progressed. Stakeholder meetings were organised where research findings were presented and assessments discussed, meetings and briefings were arranged with specific government agents, advocacy activities and trainings were organised, and authorities included as panel members in the Stakeholder Delphi surveys undertaken at each site, see the reports on Stakeholder Evaluations of Aquatic Resources in section 3.1 (HighARCS project outputs) of the WRAP toolkit.

Integrated Action Plans – policy links
Through the assessments and development of the action plans at the sites, a number of policy changes (or improvements of rules and regulations), or measures of enforcement were identified as desirable in order to improve the sustainable use and conservation of aquatic resources, mediate conflicts or competing uses, and improve local livelihoods. The integrated action plans (IAPs) can be found in the Implementation and Monitoring Strategy reports in section 3.1 (HighARCS project outputs) of the WRAP toolkit. All action plans were discussed with local authorities, and a number of actions were subsequently implemented by specific local government departments as an integrated part of their regular activities.

Policy briefs
To support the implementation and impact of the integrated action plans, a number of policy changes were identified as desirable in order to improve the sustainable use and conservation of aquatic resources. Therefore a number of policy briefs were produced, each focused on a specific policy relevant issue at the site, and can be found in section 3.1 (HighARCS project outputs) of the WRAP toolkit. A guidance document on how to produce a policy brief was also developed, drawing on the International Development Research Centre, Toolkit for Researchers and the FAO Food Security Communications Toolkit.

Linking science to policy at the regional and international scale
The HighARCS project generated scientific findings that were relevant to conservation and development policy outside of the scope of the sites. This related to the processes followed or developed by the project, or the potential relevance of the results of the work at the sites to situations across the world.

CBD Aichi Targets
The WRAP toolkit is relevant for anyone working to achieve several of the Convention on Biological Diversity Strategic Plan for Biodiversity Strategic Goals and Aichi Targets. The aim of the toolkit is to provide a strategy to ensure that aquatic resources are managed sustainably, that biodiversity and ecosystem service values are incorporated into poverty reduction strategies (Aichi Target 2). It also incorporates the active engagement at all stages in the toolkit, from assessment to implementation of IAPs, of indigenous groups and local communities (specifically including gender and age groups) along with policy makers and other stakeholders (Target 18). Formulation of IAPs with a focus on aquatic resources will help ensure that all fish and invertebrate stocks and aquatic plants are managed and harvested sustainably (Target 6) and that essential ecosystem services are restored and safeguarded (Target 14). Click here for the poster on how the HighARCS toolkit helps implement the CBD Aichi targets, as presented at the CBD SBSTTA-17 meeting in October 2013

HighARCS contribution to the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES)
The results and methodologies from the HighARCS ecosystem services and biodiversity assessments, plus other relevant outputs such as the integrated action plans, at the five project sites have been submitted to the recently established Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES). The IPBES Catalogue of Assessments on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services will provide assessment case studies from global to site scale, to inform the future development of IPBES.
The Catalogue can be found here: http://ipbes.unepwcmc-004.vm.brightbox.net
The HighARCS entry here: http://ipbes.unepwcmc-004.vm.brightbox.net/assessments/202.
A summary of the HighARCS ecosystem services and biodiversity assessments is also included.

BioFresh Project & IUCN Red List
The BioFresh project (like the HighARCS project is funded by the European Commission) aims to build a global information platform for scientists and ecosystem managers with access to all available databases describing the distribution, status and trends of global freshwater biodiversity.

The IUCN Red List is the most comprehensive, objective global approach for evaluating the conservation status of plant and animal species. Its goal is to provide information and analyses on the status, trends and threats to species in order to inform and catalyse action for biodiversity conservation. It provides a global context for the establishment of conservation priorities at the local level; and Influences conservation decisions at multiple scales, from environmental impact assessments to international multilateral environmental agreements.

All the biodiversity Red List assessments and distribution maps produced through the HighARCS project are being made available through the BioFresh project and are all accessible on the IUCN Red List website.

The Economics of Ecosystems and Biodiversity (TEEB)
TEEB is an international initiative that aims to provide evidence and raise awareness of the economic benefits of biodiversity and ecosystem services, and the growing economic costs associated with their degradation. The initiative draws on expertise from science, policy and economics backgrounds and since 2008 has produced a number of reports, including ‘The Economics of Ecosystems and Biodiversity (TEEB) for Water and Wetlands’ in 2013. This report uses the HighARCS project as an example of the importance of non-economic valuation of wetland ecosystem services.

Biodiversity Knowledge (EC FP7 KNEU Coordination Action)
HighARCS collaborated with the European Commission sponsored Biodiversity Knowledge initiative aimed at developing an ‘open networking approach to boost the knowledge flow between biodiversity knowledge holders and users in Europe’. A peer reviewed protocol was published for a Strategic Review Floodplain management in temperate regions: is multi-functionality enhancing biodiversity? (Schindler et al., 2013). The completed Strategic Review will provide a comprehensive synthesis of knowledge in a readily accessible format to bridge the research-policy interface.

Managing Water and Agroecosystems for Food Security
Findings and methods from HighARCS were included in ‘Managing Water and Agroecosystems for Food Security’ coordinated by the International Water Management Institute and United Nations Environment Programme and published by CABI as part of the Comprehensive Assessment of Water Management in Agriculture series. Notable contributions were made to chapters on ‘Wetlands’, ‘Increasing Water Productivity in Agriculture’ and ‘Management of Water and Agroecosystems in Landscapes for Sustainable Food Security’ and the book was launched at World Water Week 2013 at an event attended by the Program Director for the CGIAR Research Program on Water, Land and Ecosystems.

InnovationSeeds 100 promising EU-funded environmental R&D results
Outputs from HighARCS were summarised for inclusion within the European Commission sponsored InnovationSeeds ‘interactive portal for environmental research and knowledge’ that ‘repackages 100 promising EU-funded environmental R&D results to accelerate their uptake as policy measures and market success’.

List of Websites:

Public website: www.wraptoolkit.org

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