International Mountain Biodiversity Conference

Themes and Sub-Themes

This plenary session will centre on the three themes of common concern and will centre around: 

The conferees will be asked to participate in one of five parallel ‘working group’ sessions in which they will be asked to share their HKH regional experiences by exploring the five sub-themes:

Themes

INTRODUCTIONS TO THEMES:

1. Climate Change and its Implications for Mountain Biodiversity
While it is generally agreed that climate change will exacerbate the danger to mountain biodiversity which is already posed by land-use change, over-harvesting, and the introduction of alien species, the actual link between the two is still poorly understood. The proposed theme ‘Climate Change and its Implications for Mountain Biodiversity’ will explore the implications that climate has for biodiversity in the Hindu Kush-Himalaya by bringing together the state-of-the-art information from the HKH with understanding and research from other parts of the globe. This theme will explore what might be the information gaps that need to be filled and what collaborative future actions with local, regional and global players are needed.

2. Biodiversity Management for Economic Goods and Ecosystem Services from the Mountains
In the Hindu Kush-Himalaya the level of development is such that people’s livelihoods are very directly tied to the food, fodder, and fuel, provided by their environment. In the face of increasing human pressures on the environment, the benefits rendered by these ecosystem services in themselves are a powerful incentive to conserve nature, however, a rigorous economic analysis is difficult. The services rendered by nature are typically not captured by conventional, market-based economic activity and so evaluating them and assigning a monetary value remains problematic. Moreover, there has to date not been any initiative to either quantify these services in economic terms or to share the benefits with the custodians of these resources. The proposed theme ‘Biodiversity Management for Economic Goods and Ecosystem Services from the Mountains’ will attempt to learn from global and regional initiatives how this issue has been approached elsewhere and to identify potential areas of research and develop future strategies.   

3. Institutionalizing Long-Term Continuity in Mountain Research Programmes
The Hindu Kush-Himalayan Region is at a serious disadvantage not only because it is so vulnerable but also because data required for research are scarce; in many ways the region is a ‘white spot’ where systematic data are lacking. While many countries have completed data collection projects these remain scattered and there is no central repository for data from the whole region. The reasons for this are many and stem from the fact that the region is enormous (more than 3,500 km from East to West) and that until very recently the countries of this region were among the poorest in the world and had little experience of regional cooperation.The challenges are that whereas biodiversity is a natural phenomena, the boundaries which separate it (and water) are often political. By institutionalizing long-term continuity in mountain research the heritage of its biodiversity can be secured as a resource for the world. The theme “Institutionalizing Long-Term Continuity in Mountain Research Programmes” aims to examine how data gaps can be filled and how to create a consolidated regional knowledge base encompassing information and knowledge relevant to stakeholders, development workers and poly makers from the region.

Sub-Themes

INTRODUCTIONS TO TECHNICAL GROUP WORK SESSIONS:

1. Climate Change Impacts on Biodiversity and Mountain Protected Areas
The member countries of the Hindu Kush Himalayan have shown a strong commitment to conservation and management of biodiversity through different conservation approaches and policy changes.  Most notable among these is the fact that 39% of this region has now been set aside as protected area networks. In spite of this the continuous loss of biodiversity in the region remains a challenge. The direct drivers of such loss include climate change, change in land use/cover and species introduction/removal; and the indirect the drivers are the demographic, economic and socio-political changes that are taking place in the region and in the world. Whereas some of these drivers can be held at bay in protected areas others, like climate change, are pervasive and can have an impact on species persistence which leads to the disproportionate distribution of species along ecological zones both within and beyond protected area borders. 

The problems are complex and both the present and future impacts of human-induced climate change are uncertain due to lack of sufficient convincing evidence. The sub-theme ‘Climate Change Impacts on Biodiversity and Mountain Protected Areas’ aims to help identify knowledge gaps and future strategies and  to explore a gamut of conservation approaches both from the region and from around the world.

2. Land Use Change Trends and Impact on Mountain Biodiversity
Changes in the biophysical attributes of the earth’s surface such as land cover and land use are among the most important drivers of climate change as they contribute to carbon sequestration and nitrogen deposition. Land-use and land-cover changes can also impact biotic and species diversity which in turn can affect the ability of biological systems to support human needs and can contribute to economic or socio-political perturbations. While land-use, and land-cover changes in the Hind Kush-Himalaya have taken place rapidly over the past few decades there are still only very few properly documented studies on the impact that this has had on mountain biodiversity. The sub-theme ‘Land Use Change Trends and Impact on Mountain Biodiversity’ will explore some convincing studies of the implications of lands use change on biodiversity from both the Hindu Kush-Himalayan region as well as globally. 

3. Wetland Ecosystem Functions and Services – Implications of Climate Change
Himalayan wetlands are of global importance in terms of the atmospheric circulation, biodiversity, water and hydrological cycles, landscape beauty and the other ecosystem services they provide. As global temperatures rise, a greater proportion of the total precipitation falls as rain instead of snow and snowmelt starts earlier in the season effectively shortening the winter. The global community is showing an increased awareness of the importance of wetland systems and of the consequences that climactic changes can have on the water they provide for both flora and fauna. The discussion on the sub-theme ‘Wetland Ecosystem Functions and Services – Implications of Climate Change’ aims to bring to the fore some of the key issues on the impact that climate change can have on the maintenance and preservation of wetland ecosystems.

4. Balancing Biodiversity Conservation with Community Livelihoods
There is an increasing concern that global efforts to maintain biodiversity can conflict with those to reduce poverty in mountain areas. Conservationists face a dilemma. How to promote conservation without depriving subsistence economies from extracting their livelihoods and interfering with regional socio-cultural values that have in the past been used to promote biodiversity conservation. The new understanding on this issue recognises that there are many driving forces behind the loss of biodiversity not the least of which are acute human pressure on local resources and market-driven globalization. Whereas previously poor and population issues were thought to be the agents there is a growing awareness that they ‘stand at the end of a long chain of causes and effects’ and are now seen as the ‘messengers’ of un-sustainability rather than its agents. The sub-theme ‘Balancing Biodiversity Conservation with Community Livelihoods’ will examine evolving conservation approaches.


5. Biodiversity Transects and Transboundary Connectivity Approaches in Mountains for Long-term Monitoring and Regional Cooperation
Recent advances in the approach to conservation have helped in the devising of transboundary landscapes and protected areas which use regional cooperation to achieve global biodiversity conservation goals. In the recent decade, efforts to conserve biodiversity have gradually begun to shift away from law enforcement towards a more participatory approach which emphasizes the equitable and sustainable use of natural resources. The conservation of biodiversity in ecosystems that straddle international borders not only renders services to nature, but also constitutes an opportunity to strengthen socio-economic development among the cooperating neighbouring countries. This approach benefits mutually shared resources and enhances transboundary cooperation with the intention of helping the countries concerned to meet their obligations under international agreements such as the CBD. The sub-theme ‘Biodiversity Transects and Transboundary Connectivity Approaches in Mountains for Long-term Monitoring and Regional Cooperation’ will explore regional and global experiences with this model as well as put forth concrete ideas which use a transact landscape approach for the HKH region.