Combating the Impacts of Climate Change on Biodiversity in the Himalayas

19 Nov 2008


Experts support transect approach for understanding biodiversity loss caused by climate change in the Himalayas

The remoteness of the Himalayan region and its endemic poverty have isolated it from the rest of the world, but they can’t protect it from the global ravages of climate change. The rising temperatures are threatening a tremendous loss of biological diversity in this ecologically sensitive region, a loss that threatens mountain livelihoods and regional security.

Biodiversity experts, global programme leaders and representatives of Himalayan countries met in Kathmandu this week to share, network and develop future strategies to understand climate change and to help preserve mountain biodiversity. The meeting organised by the International Centre for Integrated Mountain Development (ICIMOD) was the culmination of a series of workshops held during the last fortnight on diverse aspects of climate change and biodiversity in the Himalayas. At present, the lack of basic environmental data for the Himalayan region is so serious that the IPCC, the world’s apex body on climate change, says that the region is a ‘white spot’ for data. Without this data it is impossible to develop appropriate plans for avoiding or adapting to the worst problems. The countries of the region also voiced the urgent need for reliable data and the need to share with and benefit from global programmes on climate change impacts, and volunteered to collaborate as needed.

The Himalayas are too big for any group to study the whole area, but renowned mountain geographer, Professor Bruno Messerli, and the team at ICIMOD proposed a solution: selecting four representative ‘transects’ or north-south ‘corridors’ in different places from east to west, and encouraging everyone, from big global programmes to individual researchers, to focus their efforts in these sites under a coordinated arrangement that helps make all the information produced available for everyone to use. Representatives of global programmes enthusiastically supported the proposal and said that they could provide all possible technical support. ICIMOD as a regional knowledge, learning and enabling centre can provide the crucial link between international technical support and the national institutions in Himalayan countries, and provide a platform for the links that are needed between countries. Typical test sites will make use of existing protected areas, national parks, bird sanctuaries, Ramsar sites, and World Heritage sites, covering critical eco-regions and transboundary areas. The transects stretch across national and international boundaries, and participants stressed that regional cooperation was needed to tackle the problems holistically and make the most of countries’ and organisations’ individual efforts.

Dr Andreas Schild, ICIMOD’s Director General, was delighted by the willingness expressed by Himalayan countries and global programmes to participate in a transect approach for research and gathering data, saying: ‘This is a significant and tangible first step towards the long-term preservation of the Himalaya’s genetic heritage.’

The International Conference on Mountain Biodiversity took place from 16-18 November 2008 at the ICIMOD Headquarters in Khumalatar, Lalitpur, in the Kathmandu Valley of Nepal. Some 75 renowned biodiversity, climate change, and conservation experts, representatives of global programmes, and representatives of the eight countries that share the Himalayan region – from more than 20 countries met to discuss ways of systematically gathering and sharing the information needed, developing a reliable picture of the present situation, and formulating approaches to respond. The meeting provided a forum where world-renowned experts and representatives of global programmes could discuss issues with the countries of the Himalayan region to develop a common future strategy for mountain biodiversity conservation. The Conference was accompanied by two pre-conference workshops on Mountain Transboundary Protected Areas (10-14 November 2008), and Linking Geodata with Biodiversity Information (15-16 November 2008), and a post-conference workshop on a Research Strategy on Global Change in Mountain Biosphere Reserves (19 November 2008) which provided opportunities to discuss and agree special aspects of this important topic.


For further information contact: 
Dr Eklabya Sharma
Programme Manager
Environmental Change and Ecosystems Services
Khumaltar, Lalitpur
GPO Box 3226, Kathmandu, Nepal

 +977 1 5003222 
+977 1 5003222

Fax: +977 1 5003299