… the carbon sequestration capacity increased in the last six years

YK Poudel 

Bhutan’s forest coverage decreased to 69.71 percent in 2022 compared to 71.13 percent in 2016, according to the second National Forest Inventory launched yesterday by the Department of Forest and Park Services (DoFPS) and Bhutan for Life Fund Secretariat.

The Energy and Natural Resources Ministry’s (MoENR) report states that the carbon sequestration capacity for Bhutan increased to 11 million tonnes from 9.6 million in the last six years.

MoENR Minister Loknath Sharma launched the report coinciding with the International Ranger’s Day. He also presented the International Ranger’s Award to the Division Forest Office, Sarpang.

Lyonpo said that Bhutan is regarded as a global champion of environmental conservation where rangers are a pivotal player. “At the risk of their lives and comfort, the rangers work to safeguard the diversity of life – for which the award is a way to preserve the pristine environment.”

He said: “Bhutan being a fast-developing nation, lots of environmental challenges are inevitable, and rangers hold a critical position securing the balance between development and conservation.”

With the launch of these reports, he said, Bhutan should be able to have informed decision and knowledge on growing stock,forest carbon and cost-effective decisions to combat climate change.

Three important reports: State of Forest Report 2023, the State of Forest Carbon Report, and the Forest Cover Mapping Report were launched yesterday.

Kinley Dem, deputy chief forestry officer of Forest Monitoring and Information Division, said that the second NFI is a part of periodic exercise to monitor the changes in the state of forest resources of Bhutan and guide in ensuring and maintaining forest coverage and policies in the 13th five-year plan.

She said: “In spite of the scarce resources, topography and harsh terrain in Bhutan, the inventory is a key exercise to monitoring the extent of forest, growing stock, carbon stock among others for better planning and management of forest through policy and interventions.” 

The State of Forest Report 2023 reports a growing stock of 759 million cubic metre in standing form, a decrease by 20 percent since the last NFI in 2015.

Another important observation from the reports, she said, is the increased proportion of smaller sized trees, with more than 72 percent of the trees estimated to be below 30cm.

Bhutan recorded a total of 1,008 million trees and 523 million saplings are estimated to be found in Bhutan. The number of trees increased by 26 percent from 2015. 

Principal forestry officer, DoFPS, Dorji Wangdi said that the sequestration capacity of Bhutan’s forest has increased to 11 million tonnes of carbon dioxide from 9.6 million tonnes estimated in 2015.

He said: “Approximately 523 million tonnes of carbon are stored in forest ecosystem of Bhutan from the total carbon stock of 609 million tonnes as per the findings reported in the SoFC Report.”

According to him, the increase in the sequestration capacity of forest despite decrease of forest and forest carbon report is because of the increased rate of Basal Area Increment. “The total annual Basal Area Increment in last five years in Forest is 1.22 million metre-square for the entire Forest.”

Over 231 officials were involved in the conduct of NFI between July 2021 and 2022. The data analysis was done in between 2022 and 2023. The field crew collected 1,969 cluster plot of the total 2,424 cluster plots in the country.

Wangdue has the greatest area under forest cover (258,969.43 ha) followed by Zhemgang (223,067.45 ha) while Tsirang has the smallest forest cover of (54,380.94 ha). 

The National Forest Inventory (NFI) is the systematic collection of data and information for assessment or analysis of forest resources at the national level.

The reports were published with technical support from the Soil Plant and Analytical Laboratory (SPAL), and National Soil Service Centre of Department of Agriculture funded by the government and Bhutan for Life Fund Secretariat, the REDD Readiness Proposal Project.