‘Global warming may affect Bhutan’s biodiversity, impact Northeast’


KOLKATA: Slow-melting of glaciers due to global warming may cause huge floods in Bhutan in the future and result in loss of keystone species which may encourage probable animal poachers to hunt in this country, Indian researchers say.

"The effect on India can be severe. In fact there are earlier instances of devastating flood in Indian states located in the Eastern Himalayas. More emissions will result in global warming rate higher than the normal which can directly result into loss of many ecologically important flora and fauna," Rajib Bandopadhyay, Associate Professor, UGC-Center of Advanced Study at University of Burdwan's Department of Botany, said.

The Eastern Himalayas are experiencing widespread warming at a rate higher than 0.01 degree Centigrade per year.

Bhutan is one of the few countries in the world with negative carbon emissions. However, Its status as a negative carbon emitter does not make it immune to the impact of climate change.

"Currently, loss of keystone species is not recorded for Bhutan but the snow leopard, tiger and white-bellied herons are presently threatened. India could be affected in a way that probable animal poachers will hunt in India if loss of keystone species occurs in Bhutan. Also, some international policies (relating to the environment) can also be affected," Bandopadhyay said.

The presence and absence of a keystone species impacts the existence of all other organisms around it.

In a critical analysis in Current Science, Bandopadhyay and Aparna Banerjee of the varsity have drawn attention to Bhutan and its biodiversity links with India in reference to their location in the Eastern Himalayan (EH) range, one of the 34 biodiversity hotspots in the world.

Spanning nearly 750,000 sq. km, the EH hotspot covers Nepal, Bhutan, the Indian states of West Bengal, Sikkim, Assam and Arunachal Pradesh, southeast Tibet and northern Myanmar.

"Bhutan is the only country which shares all its land area as the EH region. It occupies a major share (7.60 percent) of the total EH area. Other than a few rare specific flora and fauna of Bhutan, most of the biodiversity found in the country is the same as that found in Eastern Himalayan states of India such as Sikkim, West Bengal, Assam, Uttarakhand," Bandopadhyay said.

Bhutan also has 10 protected areas (PAs) with biological corridors that are home to mass populations of vulnerable takin (goat-antelope), endangered one-horn rhino, pigmy hog, leopard, red panda and the like, as also varying bird species.

Conservation of the natural environment is one of the four pillars of Bhutan's Gross National Happiness creed.

Its constitution says that "a minimum of sixty percent of Bhutan's total land shall be maintained under forest cover for all time" to conserve the country's natural resources and to prevent degradation of the ecosystem.

"We have parks and that too connected with biological corridors. Indian Manas Park has a good future because it's connected to Bhutan's Manas National Park (called Royal Manas National Park) which is connected to all the parks," a source in the the Royal Manas National Park told IANS on condition of anonymity as he is not authorised to speak to the media.

Bandopadhyay said to prevent devastating floods, India and all other Eastern Himalayan countries need to "decrease the rate of deforestation and urbanisation so that effect of global warming will be less and rate of glacier melting will slow down".

"Bhutan's ethics and principles on conservation are very strong and their population ratio is very slim. We have good biodiversity in India but we need to take care of it," he added.