National Biodiversity Monitoring Protocol Drafted To Ensure That Bhutan’s Rich Biodiversity Thrives
The development of the protocol is Bhutan's first attempt to put in place a proper biodiversity monitoring system at the national-level.
By Phub Gyem |BBS
Currently, Bhutan has a draft National Biodiversity Monitoring Protocol in place to monitor its wild biodiversity.
It is basically is a guide or manual that outlines the tools and methods needed to gather crucial information about plant and animal species, such as species diversity, habitat, threats and distribution patterns.
The development of the protocol is the first attempt to put in place a proper biodiversity monitoring system at the national-level.
How the protocol was developed
Initiated by the Nature Conservation Division, the biodiversity experts came together over the past few months to develop protocols for monitoring the plant, mammal, fish, reptile, amphibian, bird and insect species of Bhutan.
The protocol for different species were field tested and consolidated at a workshop in Gelephu recently. Some 45 forestry officials from across the country took part.
Source: WWF Bhutan
“We have very rich biodiversity and we do a lot of monitoring works in protected areas. For instance, we do a lot of biodiversity surveys during the management plan. But those are all surveys done in small pockets. We really don’t have a national-level data. With the help of the protocol, we will be able to get a systematic, coordinated and consolidated biodiversity data from across the country,” said Tandin, the Senior Forestry Officer of Nature Conservation Division under DoFPS.
The week-long workshop included rigorous field exercises, which involved visiting forests and rivers to record and identify plant and animal species.
Jigme Tshelthrim Wangyal, the Deputy Chief Forestry Officer of Jigme Khesar Strict Nature Reserve (JKSNR) in Haa, led the herpetofauna or reptile and amphibian group.
“For us, the herpetofauna group, we don’t even have a baseline data. With this protocol in place now, we are expecting a baseline data. Once we have the baseline data, we can work on it and see the changes over the years like whether the species are disappearing or becoming more,” he explained.
Studying climate change by monitoring reptiles and amphibians
According to Jigme Tshelthrim Wangyal, besides determining the status and tracking changes, biodiversity monitoring also helps us to understand threats to species and their responses. Moreover, reptiles and amphibians are also used to study climate change.
“Frogs and toads are very sensitive to temperature and humidity because they depend on water bodies to live. They can indicate whether the climate or temperature is changing. So, we can use them to study climate change.”
The draft protocol will be handed to the Department of Forests and Park Services (DoFPS) for review and approval.
Sakteng Wildlife Sanctuary
Photo: Travel Triangle
“After approval, the protocol needs to be institutionalised so that Bhutan has an annual biodiversity monitoring program. In order to effectively implement the biodiversity monitoring protocol, we will incorporate it into the Individual Work Plan,” said Letro, the Senior Forestry Officer of the Nature Conservation Division.
Why having a standard protocol alone is not enough?
While Bhutan is well known for its rich biodiversity, there is no standard monitoring protocol in place. The Nature Conservation Division’s effort to come up with a protocol, therefore, is critical to ensuring that the country’s wild biodiversity thrives.
However, the protocol alone is not enough. Regular wild biodiversity monitoring at the national level would entail a lot of costs. Capacity building of field staff, equipping forest divisions and park offices with the necessary equipment and infrastructure, such as a repository to store species specimen, is crucial to ensure the success of biodiversity monitoring.
The protocol was developed through the National Adaptation Programme of Action (NAPA) phase III project, initiated and implemented by the government. It is also supported by the UNDP and funded by the Global Environment Facility.
This article first appeared in BBS and has been edited for Daily Bhutan.