Bhutan’s carbon stock, carbon that has been stored in the biomass, is 709 million MT. That is including 188 million MT of carbon stored in forests soils as organic matter.

The stock could be more as the study measured only up to 30cm depth of ground, not the entire soil profile, experts said.

The total biomass, the quantity of organisms in a given area of our forests is estimated to be about 1,109 million metric tonnes (MT), which translates to 521 million MT of carbon.

Bhutan’s forest is estimated to increase by 2.01 metric tonnes a hectare and 1.25MT a hectare in non-forest areas.

These are new information in the second volume of the National Forest Resources Inventory (NFI) report launched recently. The first volume of the forest cover and growing stock of the forest was launched in February last year.

Forest Resources Management Division’s (FRMD) chief forestry officer, Lobzang Dorji, said the report is a huge breakthrough for the forestry sector as it has information on biomass and forest carbon stock, the regeneration and annual increment and the species diversity.

“Other qualitative information on forest health and disturbance, non-wood forest produce and wildlife are also reported. These results would be the first ever assessment being done at a national level,” he said. “Because so far we don’t have these information.”

The only forestry inventory or the pre-investment survey of the country’s forest resources was conducted between 1974 and 1981.

Forestry officials said that biomass and forest carbon stock assessment has gained importance in the recent years with forests serving as significant terrestrial carbon sink.

Deforestation and forest degradation account for about 17 percent of carbon emissions, more than the entire global transportation sector and second only to the energy sector, they said.

“Assessing carbon stock and changes over time is therefore, important for mitigation and adaptation to the impacts of climate change,” FRMD deputy chief forestry officer, Kezang Yangden, said.

“These estimates are the first field-based data collected at a national level and serve as baseline information for monitoring the changes over time,” she said.

The broad leaf forest, which consists of 65 percent of the total forest cover, has higher biomass and carbon stock than conifer forest. Similarly, the soil organic carbon is also higher in broad leaf forest than conifer forest.

“How much carbon sequestration our forests does annually can also be calculated,” Kezang Yangden said.

The estimated sequestration capacity of our forest is 6.3 million metric tonnes of CO2 while the emissions for year 2000 was only 1.6 million tons of CO2 equivalent. This was largely due to huge areas of forest cover, low levels of industrial activity and almost 100 percent electricity generation through hydropower.

Senior forestry officer, Yonten Phuntsho, said only a few countries have carried out such an extensive inventory on forest resources.

“The exercise helped build the technical capacity in foresters to conduct such exercises,” he said.

The agriculture ministry is expected to repeat the exercise every five years.

He said the reports provide the tools for fulfilling the constitutional mandate of maintaining 60 percent forest cover and also enables the country to respond to the international reporting requirements with reduced uncertainties.

The inventory is also an important exercise for measurement, reporting and verification mechanism of REDD+ implementation, he said.

Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation, and Conservation, Sustainable Management of Forest and Enhancement of Forest Carbon Stocks (REDD+) is a global initiative to reduce carbon emissions from forests and enhance carbon absorption.

Since the inception of NFI project in 2009, NFI has received financial and technical support of multiple partners over the years starting with SNV, BTFEC, USDA-FS, FAO, FCPF through World Bank and Federal Ministry of the Environment, Nature Conservation and Nuclear Safety (BMUB) of Germany through ICIMOD and GIZ.

Tshering Palden