The HKH houses one of the most diverse ecosystems on the earth, featuring a rich biodiversity of species and genetic levels, supplemented by ethnic and cultural diversity, and manifested in a myriad of habitats and vertical heterogeneities in soil, water, climate, and topography. As the source of ten major river basins and home to numerous glaciers, the HKH is often referred to as the “Third Pole.”
These factors contribute to the high degree of genetic diversity in terms of crops and livestock species in the Himalaya, which require equally diverse management systems for negotiating the interface between human systems with natural systems. The flow of services (e.g., supporting, provisioning, regulating, and cultural) provided by these mountain ecosystems contributes to the wellbeing of the mountain populations throughout the HKH, the downstream areas, and the global community.
However, despite international recognition, mountains, in general, and the HKH, in particular, continue to face enormous pressures due to anthropogenic change on regional and global scales. These pressures have disrupted of the region’s mountain ecosystems and threaten the HKH in various ways: rising poverty, biodiversity loss, ecological degradation, and diminished ecosystem service provisions.
Climate change has emerged as the most widely discussed driver of global change. As a driver, climate change is embedded in a matrix of other drivers such as globalization, population growth, and local land-use and land cover change. All of these, in combination, have significant ramifications for ecosystem resilience, which can lead to greater vulnerability of natural and human populations. Thus, action at the local, regional, and global levels is required to ensure that ecosystem health is maintained to sustain the flow of ecosystem services, so that people in the HKH have the tools they need for mitigation, adaptation, and enhanced resilience.
In this spirit, the Ecosystem Services Theme will pursue the following objectives in the next five years:
We will develop methodologies and/or approaches in the following areas: