Incentives for Ecosystem Services (IES) in the Himalayas: A ‘Cookbook’ for Emerging IES Practitioners in the Region

Part I. Introduction

The Himalayas’ forests, glaciers, wetlands, soil and biodiversity support the lives and livelihoods of millions of people. The combined benefits from nature are known as ecosystem services (MEA, 2005).

These benefits can be tangible — such as food, water, building materials, medicines, and materials used in cultural activities — or intangible, such as places of beauty and spiritual importance. The Himalayas already provide ecosystem services and resources to more than 210 million inhabitants and 1.5 billion people living in surrounding regions and beyond (Karki et al., 2012). Yet ecosystem services in the Himalayas, and thus the lives and livelihoods they support, are at risk. In many cases, ecosystem services are in decline, with consequences for literally billions of people. Examples include erosion, landslides, loss of agricultural topsoil, water pollution caused by upstream activities, loss of traditionally harvested plants and animals from forests, and loss of forests as a whole. The loss of these services has severe and direct implications for the rural and mountain communities who have traditionally derived direct benefit from those ecosystem services. These communities often access ecosystems directly at the source: food, water, and materials for heating and cultural activities. Ecosystem services that regulate water and land stability (controlling flood levels, soil loss, and providing landslide control) can also be affected by changes to ecosystems.

other regions (via fluid ecosystem services or products that are transported off site) may struggle to provide the same level of benefits. Services may decline, become less reliable, or cease altogether. It is anticipated that with a growing population in the Himalayan region, human pressure on ecosystems will continue to grow (Sandhu and Sandhu, 2014). Additionally, climate change is already seen to pose substantial risks and disruptions to ecosystems and their use. These currently have, and will continue to have, direct and indirect impacts for populations that rely on ecosystem services, including extreme weather events, water insecurity and challenges to crops and livestock raising. Poor and rural communities without access to infrastructure are likely to be more directly reliant upon ecosystem services and therefore particularly vulnerable to these changes. This has acute consequences for health, well-being, and future development trajectories in these areas. Examples of Ecosystem Services • Forest goods and materials • Food products (fish, fruit, mushrooms) • Traditional materials for ceremony, medicine, or cultural activities • Flood prevention • Regulation of water quality and quantity • Erosion control • Tourism • Pollination for agriculture • Habitat for biodiversity • Aesthetic beauty

The combined benefits from nature are known as ecosystem services

When ecosystems and land use or land management change upstream, consequent changes to ecosystem services can lead to more instability and infrastructure challenges for those in urban areas downstream. Communities and land management activities that may have traditionally provided ecosystem services for


Incentives for Ecosystem Services (IES) in the Himalayas

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