Alpine zones, or the area between the upper treeline and permanent snowline, are distributed globally and are among the most diverse habitats in the world per unit area. Alpine zones are important as highland water catchments for lowlands, as sources of natural products (e.g.edible and medicinal plants), as pastureland for animal husbandry, and as attractions for ecotourism trade (trekking and mountaineering).
However experts also warn that these ecosystems are especially vulnerable to incompatible land use and global climate change. Unfortunately the need to protect alpine ecosystems wordwide and in Nepal has been largely neglected by the international conservation community. Hence alpine ecosystems in the Khumbu region of Nepal are becoming increasingly threatened by nsustainable uses, such as unregulated tourism, burning, overgrazing by livestock, uncontrolled lodge construction, and the accelerated harvesting of slow-growing shrubs for fuel wood. Especially during the last 20 years, the removal of soil-binding shrubs from the fragile and thin alpine soils has contributed not only to dramatic increases in soil erosion, but also to accelerated landscape denudation that local people refer to as "growing glacial moraines." Only recently have the relatively unknown, but accelerating problems of alpine degradation received some level of international attention as a result of TMI's ongoing research and conservation efforts.
In 2004, The Mountain Institute (TMI) launched a project entitled "Community-based Alpine Conservation and Restoration of Mt Everest Alpine Zone" with the goal of protecting and restoring the fragile alpine ecosystems of Sagarmatha National Park and Buffer Zone (SNPBZ). As part of the project, the region's first local NGO, the Khumbu Alpine Conservation Council (KACC), was formed with financial and technical support from TMI and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP)'s Small Grant Programme (SGP). KACC works to conserve and restore fragile alpine ecosystems by strengthening local management and conservation capacities. It has implemented this project in partnership with local Sherpa communities, government agencies, non-government organisations (NGOs), international NGOs, donor agencies, and the trekking and climbing communities.