To provide a platform for tree ring researchers and scientists to share latest research findings and to build a stronger research network, the 10thWorld Dendro Conference began in Thimphu, yesterday.

Dendrochronology is the study of precisely dated tree rings and is applied as a tool in environmental science.  More than 170 participants are attending the five-day conference.

Agriculture minister Yeshey Dorji, said that the conference is timely, as it would enable Bhutan to observe and adopt good principles from science. “With wide benefit and usage of dendro science, this conference will aid in sharing of ideas that will be important in addressing key challenges in the country.”

Themed ‘finding solutions from tree rings’, the conference is being held in a developing country for the first time.

Researcher at Ugyen Wangchuck Institute for Conservation and Environmental Research (UWICER), Sangay Wangchuk, said trees produce a ring annually that could determine the weather pattern or temperature from hundred years ago or two.

“If the environment is favourable for trees to grow then the spaces between tree rings would be wider,” he said. “If there is drought in the area where trees are growing, then the rings would have narrow spaces.”

This could help make it possible to study about the climate in future, he said.

“In Bhutan, it is important because when global temperature rises by 0.5 Degree Celsius, we in the Himalayas experience much more increase in temperature,” he said. “We can say that climate change is happening in the country through the tree ring sources as the ring pattern changes with time.”

He said that changing and uncertain stream flow creates challenges for the generation of hydropower.

A professor at Columbia University, Edward R Cook (PhD), said that Bhutan among all countries in South Asia has the best-reserved forest that is found in high elevation and has forest of great diversity. “Bhutan has great opportunities to study climate history from tree rings, history of floods and storms, and also issues relating to economic in terms of hydropower generation as glaciers retreat.”

He said that Bhutan’s record on climate precipitation is limited with them going back to only 25 years.

“However, trees in Bhutan are over a hundred years. In some cases maybe 800-900 years. Consequently, there is an opportunity to compare today’s climate record with what the trees have told us about what happened in the past.”

Status report of UWICER showcasing researches carried out in the past two years, implementation of integrated watershed management to benefit maximum from hydropower in Bhutan, and a documentation of historically significant trees of Bhutan was launched yesterday.

Department of Forests and Park Services, Columbia University and Cambridge University organised the conference.

Rinchen Zangmo