Wetland systems play important roles in supporting socio-ecological systems across a range of scales, but the specific contributions of mountain wetlands are under-researched and underappreciated. This project aims to strengthen the capacities of local mountain communities for climate resilience, through the development of the MountainWet network as a hub to connect different stakeholders involved in the monitoring activities of mountain wetlands. It focuses on case study mountain wetlands located in the Cachi basin in Ayacucho Province (Peru) and upper Ganga basin, Uttarakhand and Himachal Pradesh (India).
Peruvian Andean communities are considered particularly vulnerable to climate change due to the acceleration of glacial retreat and increased weather volatility and anthropogenic pressures (Vuille et al., 2008). Similarly, Indian Himalayan communities are under tremendous stress due to a range of anthropogenic drivers including deforestation, urbanisation, industrialisation, overfishing, introduced species, land encroachment, tourism, agricultural intensification and climate change, manifested by the shrinkage in their areal extent, and decline in the hydrological, economic and ecological functions they perform (Xu et al., 2009). Better understanding of their socio-ecological status and functioning may, in the presence of a well-organised network for key stakeholders, create the conditions for better climate resilience. Upscaling this network through the Great Ranges could directly and indirectly improve the water, energy, food and climate nexus systems upon which as many as four billion people depend.
The Andes and Himalayan Great Ranges share common yet locally differentiated characteristics and threats. In the future, people in the Andes will likely to experience dry spells and less water (Buytaert et al., 2011), while those in the Himalayas will have to contend with continuing trends of volatile alternation between drought and flood conditions (Gupta and Kulkarni, 2018). By understanding their unique as well as common characteristics, we aim to facilitate knowledge exchange in this project to improve climate resilience from the bottom-up. For example, we aim to support knowledge and practice to regenerate Peru's traditional water management practices, scaling them up into national policy (continuing work begun under a Newton-Paulet-funded project in 2019). These practices include 'water sowing' (locally distributed storage of water) and water harvesting; they increase infiltration of rainwater benefitting productive and domestic uses during the dry seasons.
In India, the current rules pertaining to wetlands do not give any importance to the need for involving local communities in their conservation. Since wetlands do not fall under a specific administrative category, they tend to suffer from not a single body taking responsibility for their conservation. However, there are several locally initiated examples of community-led initiatives towards wetland conservation and management, involving local campaigns, public interest litigation and management by local institutions with the support of civil society organisations. Study of these examples will help develop role clarity between different stakeholders including various departments and concerned local communities towards conservation and wise use of wetlands in both the Peruvian and Himalayan contexts.
The combined geographical experience and scientific expertise of the participating researchers and institutions allow for truly integrated socio-ecological research, making linkages between natural and human-made elements of the climate resilience impacts of mountain wetlands. The MountainWet Climate Resilience Network will quickly become the nucleus of a broader community of social and natural scientists, practitioners, policymakers and stakeholders.
|Effective start/end date
|1/01/21 → 31/03/22
- Economic and Social Research Council