Choki Wangmo

Now with the biodiversity monitoring and social survey protocol in place, conservation activities in the country are expected to be more integrated with systematic, coordinated, and consolidated biodiversity data.

The monitoring protocol outlines tools and methods to gather important information about plant and animal species such as diversity, habitat, threats, and distribution patterns, among others.

It is also expected to set a standard tool to monitor biodiversity and assess the socioeconomic status of people who depend on biodiversity for their livelihoods.

The manual outlines the monitoring protocol for six broad taxa—mammals, birds, insects, aquatic biodiversity, herpetofauna, and plants. Until now, research and surveys were limited to taxonomic groups such as mammals, birds, and plants, leaving out other taxa like mollusks.

Senior forestry official with the nature conservation division, Letro, said that currently the conservation and biodiversity surveys were carried out in silos. However, with the monitoring protocol, all types of biodiversity in the parks and territorial forest divisions would be inclusive, he added.

The protocol, which is critical to ensure the survival of various species, would also help record new species and changing trends in biodiversity due to climate change and human disturbances, he said.

Besides determining status and tracking changes, the first standard monitoring protocol also helps to understand threats to species and their responses.

Despite being biologically diverse, Bhutan faced challenges in documenting all species in the ecosystem. Lack of standardised survey methods and protocols impeded further efforts to conduct uniform biodiversity and social surveys in the protected areas for conservation management planning.

The forest department also launched the guideline for classifying and managing key biodiversity areas last week. The guideline would ensure that endemic species outside the protected area systems and national parks are also conserved.

Some endemic species in the territorial divisions are beyond protected area network, therefore losing the attention of conservationists, Letro said. “In the territorial divisions, there are unrecorded endemic species, which will be recorded through the key biodiversity areas guideline. We plan to develop action plans to protect these species in the future.”

The number of species outside the protected area system is vulnerable to anthropogenic activities and is at the risk of being wiped out. The key biodiversity areas conservation approach would ensure that all sites of importance for biodiversity are identified, mapped, and documented.

It is in line with the Aichi Biodiversity Targets of the strategic plan for biodiversity 2011-2020, agreed by the parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity to which Bhutan is a member, states: “By 2020, …areas of particular importance for biodiversity and ecosystem services, are conserved through effectively and equitably managed, …and other effective area-based conservation measures, and integrated into the wider landscape and seascape.”

By delivering effective in-situ conservation of biodiversity, key biodiversity areas will contribute to sustaining existing biodiversity values and improving biodiversity conservation outcomes through conserving important ecosystems, safeguarding habitats of endemic species, and supporting the recovery of threatened species among others.

The key biodiversity area concept was first introduced in the country in 2005.

The drafting of the documents was supported by UNDP and funded by the Global Environment Facility.