Ecological and Environmental Change Research Group


Legal frameworks for Conservation of Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services in the Himalaya

A man on top of a building in the Himalaya making a roof from straw
Making a roof from locally sourced products in the Himalaya
Inger Måren

Main content

Maintenance of biodiversity and other ecosystem services essential for human well-being requires an effective legal framework to prevent over-exploitation and to give incentives for biodiversity protection. There is uncertainty about what types of legal framework are most effective in different ecological, economic,and cultural setting. HimaLines will test the effectiveness of different legal frameworks for maintaining ecosystem services in high-altitude Himalayan forests in Nepal.

Scientific aims

HimaLines will test the efficiency of different legal frameworks, inside and outside protected areas, in negotiating potential conflicts between the needs of local communities and conservation. Insufficient attention has been paid to the significance of the landscape matrix surrounding protected areas. We will focus on the high-altitude forest ecotone. The structure and population dynamics of forest trees in this ecotone are tightly linked to both climate and land-use. This ecotone is a good model system for testing the effects of differing land-use systems arising from differing legal frameworks. We will set up a network of paired sites, inside and outside protected areas, where we will assess costs, in terms of ecosystem degradation and diversity-loss, of meeting the demands for two major ecosystem services in these forests; namely animal husbandry (grazing and fodder collection) and edible, medicinal and aromatic plant collection. Specifically, we will study population dynamics and implementations of legal frameworks on selected edible, medicinal and aromatic plants.

The timing for this project is opportune, as Nepal is currently rewriting its constitution with special emphasis on protection of the natural environment and sustainable development. Research on the effect of different legal regulation on biodiversity will give an important basis for further development of legislation in Nepal as well as other countries in a similar stage of development.


The project will be a component of a long-established and well-functioning interdisciplinary institutional collaboration between Bergen University and Tribhuvan University, Kathmandu. The project is led by Professor Ernst Nordtveit and Professor Vigdis Vandvik. Nordtveit leads a newly founded research group on Natural Resource Management, Environment and Development Law. He will supervise one PhD student investigating the legal framework for forest and forest-product utilization. Vandvik is an ecologist with special interest in community ecology, biodiversity, environmental change, and the role of dispersal for community and ecosystem dynamics. She leads the Ecological and Environmental Change Research Group and will supervise the Postdoc in ecology.

Dr. Inger Elisabeth Måren (Department of Biology, University of Bergen, Norway)
Prof. Ram P. Chaudhary (Central Department of Botany, Tribhuvan University, Nepal)
Dr. Shonil Bhagwat (School of Geography and the Environment, University of Oxford, UK)
Dr. Annika Hofgaard (NINA, Norway)
Dr. Khem R. Bhattarai (National Herbarium and Plant Laboratories, Department of Plant Resources, Nepal)
Dr. Ole Reidar Vetaas (Department of Geography, University of Bergen, Norway)
Prof. Tor Åse (Department of Geography, University of Bergen, Norway)
Dr. Mark Watson (Royal Botanic Garden, Edinburgh, UK)
Dr. Colin Pendry (Royal Botanic Garden, Edinburgh, UK)

We collaborate with four ongoing research and education projects;

  1. “Regional Master Program in Biodiversity and Environmental Management” a multi collateral academic programme between University of Bergen, Norway and Tribhuvan University, Nepal (NOMA project 2008-2011)
  2. “Present day processes, Past changes, and Spatiotemporal variability of biotic, abiotic and socio-environmental conditions and resource components along and across the Arctic delimitation zone”. (PPS Arctic)
  3. “The role of seeds in a changing climate – linking germination ecophysiology to population and community ecology”. (SeedClim)
  4. “Influence of space and the matrix on species richness in Ugandan forest fragments”. (The Matrix)



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