Wetland Resources Action Planning (WRAP) Toolkit

An integrated action planning toolkit to conserve aquatic resources and biodiversity by promoting sustainable use

Biodiversity Assessment


What is biodiversity?

Biodiversity is the variability among living organisms and the ecological complexes of which they are part; this includes diversity within species, between species and of ecosystems (Millennium Ecosystem Assessment 2005).

Why do we need biodiversity surveys?

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
How to undertake a biodiversity assessment

There are a number of steps in planning and undertaking a biodiversity assessment, shown in the flow chart below (see figure 1). The tools in this section of the toolkit (mostly taken from Allen 2009) provides guidance on planning and conducting biodiversity surveys, species specific sampling methods, assessment of threats and conservation status of biodiversity, and alternative methods for biodiversity assessment.

Figure 1. Biodiversity assessment planning flow diagram (taken from Allen 2009).

The tools in this section of the toolkit (taken from Allen 2009) provides guidance on planning and conducting biodiversity surveys, species specific sampling methods, assessment of threats and conservation status of biodiversity, and alternative methods for biodiversity assessment.

Allen, D. et al. 2009. In: O. Springate-Baginski, D. Allen, D. and W.R.T. Darwall (eds.). An Integrated Wetland Assessment Toolkit: A guide to good practice. Gland, Switzerland: IUCN and Cambridge, UK: IUCN Species Programme. xv+144p

Dudgeon D, et al. 2006. Freshwater biodiversity: Importance, threats, status and conservation challenges. Biological Reviews 81: 163–182.

Hoffmann, M. et al., 2010. The impact of conservation on the status of the world’s vertebrates. Science 330(6010): 1503–1509.

Mace, G.M., Norris, K., Fitter, A.H., 2012. Biodiversity and ecosystem services: a multilayered relationship. Ecology 27(1): 19–26.

Millennium Ecosystem Assessment. 2005. Ecosystems and Human Well-being: Biodiversity Synthesis. World Resources Institute, Washington D.C.

Tools and Types of Outputs

IWAT – Chapter 3. Biodiversity assessment tools (pdf) This chapter of the IUCN IWAT provides practical guidelines and approaches for sampling biodiversity presence and abundance within freshwater wetlands. It also presents survey methods for some key freshwater taxa (fishes, plants, molluscs, and dragonflies)
Biodiversity assessment - training presentation (pdf) Summarises the processes outlined in the IWAT for biodiversity assessments
Biodiversity data collection sheet (doc) An example of a biodiversity survey data collection sheet. Using this (along with the survey techniques outlined in the IWAT chapter 3) will make sure that you collect the relevant information during your survey.
Red List training materials This links to the IUCN Red List training material. Here you will find the Red List Categories & Criteria and guidelines on how to apply them, training presentations and an online training course.
Incorporating ecological knowledge – training presentation (pdf) A brief presentation on the importance of local ecological knowledge and how to collect it.
Freshwater ecosystem services and biodiversity values of the Beijiang River China (pdf) An example of the type of final output from applying the ecosystem services and biodiversity assessment methods above can be seen in the HighARCS report for the Beijiang River site in China. This report is also found in section 3.1 Project Outputs of the WRAP Toolkit.

Ecosystem Services Valuation


What are ecosystem services?

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).

Why do we need to value ecosystem services?

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.

Methods and tools

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.

The key steps in undertaking a wetland ecosystem service valuation assessment is summarised in figure 1. Within the HighARCS project, a non-economic participatory valuation technique was undertaken (Stage III) – 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.

Figure 1. Summary of the stages in wetland ecosystem service valuation (from Emerton 2009)

Emerton, L. 2009. Economic valuation tools. In: O. Springate-Baginski, D. Allen, D. and W.R.T. Darwall (eds.). An Integrated Wetland Assessment Toolkit: A guide to good practice. Gland, Switzerland: IUCN and Cambridge, UK: IUCN Species Programme. xv+144p.

Millennium Ecosystem Assessment. 2005. Ecosystems and Human Well-being: Biodiversity Synthesis. World Resources Institute, Washington D.C.

Tools and Types of Outputs

IWAT – Chapter 5. Ecosystem service economic valuation tools (pdf) This chapter of the IUCN IWAT provides basic concepts and thinking behind ecosystem service valuation, and provides guidance to apply the stages highlighted above, including the selection and application of valuation (economic and non-economic) methods – from ‘replacement costs’ & ‘market price’ techniques to ‘Participatory valuation’.
HighARCS Ecosystem service valuation - training presentation (pdf) Summarises the processes outlined in the IWAT for ecosystem service valuation and mapping and the approach taken by the HighARCS project.
Incorporating ecological knowledge – training presentation (pdf) A brief presentation on the importance of local ecological knowledge and how to collect it.
Field checklist for ecosystem service valuation techniques

1) Identifying and listing wetland values (doc)
2) Selecting wetland costs and benefits (doc)
3) Choosing wetland valuation techniques (doc)
4) Identifying data needs and sources (doc)
A series of data collection sheets from the IWAT to help the assessor through the valuation assessment, in particular they provide the framework and logic to:

1) Identify wetland values, and the beneficiary or cost bearing group
2) Select wetland costs and benefits to include in the valuation
3) Choose the wetland valuation techniques to apply
4) Identify the valuation data needs and sources
Toolkit for Ecosystem Service Site-based Assessment (TESSA)

Peer reviewed paper Peh et al. 2013
This is an alternative approach to the IWAT ecosystem service assessment, and especially useful if there is a proposed change in land-use at the site. It is a toolkit for rapid assessment of ecosystem services at sites of biodiversity conservation importance. TESSA, published in 2013, guides local non-specialists through a selection of relatively accessible methods for identifying which ecosystem services maybe important at a site and for evaluating the magnitude of benefits that people obtain from them currently, compared with those expected under alternative land-uses. It currently supports five services – global climate-regulating services, water-related services, harvested wild goods, cultivated goods and nature-based recreation.
Freshwater ecosystem services and biodiversity values of the Beijiang River China (pdf) An example of the type of final output from applying the ecosystem services and biodiversity assessment methods above can be seen in the HighARCS report for the Beijiang River site in China. This report is also found in section 3.1 Project Outputs of the WRAP Toolkit.

Livelihood 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 constitutes a useful example (Figure 1).

Figure 1. Sustainable Livelihoods framework (DFID, 2001).1

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.

DFID. 2001. Sustainable livelihoods guidance sheets. United Kingdom Governments’ Department for International Development, London, UK.

1This toolkit contains public sector information from the United Kingdom’s Department for International Development licensed under the Open Government License v1.0.

Tools and Types of Outputs

Training Workshop 1 Report on Gender, Age & Livelihood (pdf)

Training Workshop 2 Report on Action Planning and Research (pdf)
The aim of these capacity-building workshops was to bring together project managers and researchers from both Europe and Asia to share ideas and expertise in relation to issues of gender and participation. The workshops drew on a range of expertise within the project teams to facilitate learning about local cultural contexts and relevant gender issues in relation to local livelihoods. Workshop participants should subsequently work towards minimising unequal power relationships both within the research teams and between the researchers and the research participants. By evaluating the effectiveness of different participatory tools, advantages, disadvantages and challenges of conducting participatory research were explored. The workshops raised awareness about mainstreaming gender and age as well as the benefits and difficulties of effectively engaging with participatory research. In particular, it helped to facilitate the development of appropriate participatory tools to be used during the research which are sensitive to gender and age issues.
HighARCS Overview livelihood report May 2011 (pdf) Working with key informants from communities it should be possible to segregate households in to broad categories such as rich, medium and poor. Although such an assessment is subjective it constituted ‘a useful tool to ensure a broad range of participants were included in the survey’ (Punch and Sugden, 2013)
HighARCS Interview Schedule (doc) Depending on the resources available it may be possible to conduct a quantitative survey with households. Such assessments can yield valuable insights concerning the livelihoods assets that households can draw upon, the range and significance of activities that they engage in and the types of vulnerability they face. Stratified sampling based on community wealth ranking outcomes can ensure a sample of poor, medium and wealthy households are included form different communities to permit meaningful comparisons to be drawn and differences highlighted.
Focus Group Schedule for Men and Women (pdf)
Focus Group Schedule for Boys and Girls (pdf)
Focus Group (pdf)
It is important that policy-makers and planners do not only seek the views of adult male heads of households. Consequently focus group interviews based on participants' gender (men and women) and generation (boys and girls) can be conducted to tap into women and young people's perspectives of food security and income generation. Focus group discussions can also be conducted with representatives of user groups to assess particular practices of issues and to introduce an element of inherent peer review and verification that is absent from individual interviews.
Compiled Livelihood Report (pdf)
HighARCS overview livelihoods report May 2011 (pdf)
Selected Participator Rural Appraisal (PRA) tools such as livelihoods activity ranking, timelines and community mapping were used in the HighARCS project to help visualise particular aspects of livelihoods and to facilitate and stimulate discussion of the broader environmental, institutional, social and economic setting in which people must live, problems they experience and opportunities to enhance their situation.
Sustainable Livelihoods Guidance Sheets Expanding on the Sustainable Livelihoods framework approach presented here, these guidance sheets produced by DFID provide further background and important information on how to apply such an approach, together with informative case-studies and supplementary references.
Livelihoods (ppt) This session outlines the Sustainable Livelihood Framework and sums up the importance of gender and age inclusivity for a participatory research project on household livelihoods.
IWAT – Chapter 4. Livelihood assessment tools (pdf) This chapter of the IUCN IWAT presents livelihood analysis concepts, provides an operational model for livelihood analysis in the context of wetland systems, and gives guidance on a range of data collection methods.
Livelihoods household survey forms (pdf) These forms, produced by the University of East Anglia LADDER project and cited in the IWAT, provide a data collection framework (within the context of the IWAT guidance) for household livelihood surveys. These forms may need to be adapted for surveys in different areas and aimed to address different management questions. Some forms may not be necessary for some surveys.


Policy Assessment


What is a 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.

Why do we need a Policy Assessment?

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.

How to undertake a Policy Assessment?

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?

Tools and Types of Outputs

Policy Assessment Outputs

As for the biodiversity and livelihood assessments, the policy assessment has tangible (data) as well as more indirect outputs (working relations established, and policy-relevant knowledge and capacities shared and enhanced amongst relevant partners).

Legislation, institutions, conflicts and policies inventoried & assessed

Typical data-oriented outputs of policy assessment will be written documents with data, inventories, and analyses on existing relevant legislation, formal and informal rules, the institutional landscape, policies, programs and conflict issues.

The outputs having the form of written documents could be reports listing the relevant legislation, policies and various socio-economic development or environmental planning objectivities for the area.

Further, these reports could include reflections on the role, strengths and weaknesses of the policies and legal frameworks on the state of the wetlands and the capacity for wise use management of the resources.

Finally, the reports could include recommendations for policy action.

Working relations established

An important category of outputs which is often overlooked can be characterized as the establishment of practical working relations with relevant institutions, organizations or individuals. Such valuable social relations are sometimes referred to as “social capital” (Putnam 1993; Scoones 1998).

This output is more than a mere list of institutions and stakeholders having participated in project workshops or having been contacted by the project team. It entails having established personalized relationships of people within the various participating partner institutions who know and trust each other and have found reutilized ways of communicating, meeting and coordinating the implementation of activities and tasks which they have committed themselves to deliver as their respective on-going contributions to the creation (or production) of agreed targets.

Shared and enhanced policy-relevant knowledge and capacities

The third category of outputs produced through making a policy assessment is the increased awareness of laws and policies concerning the use or conservation of the wetland areas, including the identification of insufficiencies, inconsistencies or absence of legislation. Examples of outputs of increased awareness of laws and policies could be documented references made to specific laws and rules or programs made by the participating stakeholders during discussions, meetings or action planning sessions; or it could be observed instances of changed local aquatic resources management practices, where enforcement of rules or agreement on new ones happen with reference to the policy assessments made. This can be referred to as “human capital” (Scoones 1998).

Policy Assessment Tools

The HighARCS project integrated questions relevant for the policy analysis in the field work undertaken at the sites. They were included in the questionnaires and interview guides used by the project teams (http://www.higharcs.org/download/higharcs_interview_schedule_final_v3[1].pdf, the qualitative sections 3-7); referred to in the Stakeholder Delphi surveys conducted; and placed on the agenda for the discussions at the stakeholder meetings and workshops organized at the sites. Energy policies were assessed as an element of a local sustainable energy assessment framework reported separately (Guandong, China; Quang Tri, Vietnam; Uttarakhand and West Bengal, India).

Putnam, R.D. (1993, March 21). The Prosperous Community. The American Prospect, 4 (13).

Scoones, I. (1998). Sustainable Rural Livelihoods: A Framework for Analysis.
IDS Working Paper, 72.

1.0 Integrated Approach

How to integrate action planning research and implementation across disciplines to avoid duplication and contradictory results and practices


2.1 Wetland Assessment

How to assess the biodiversity, livelihood, and ecosystem services values and identify policy and conflicts at a wetland site


2.2 Development of Integrated Action Plans

How to work with stakeholders to identify and implement actions needed at a wetland site


2.3 Implementation, Monitoring & Evaluation

How to develop monitoring and evaluation of the processes and action plans put in place

Impacts and Outcomes

Wetland Assessment
Development of Action Plans
Implementation, Monitoring & Evaluation
To be developed

Wetland Assessment
Development of Action Plans
Implementation, Monitoring & Evaluation