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14 Jun 2022 | News

Exploring future investment in biodiversity research and monitoring

HI-LIFE webinar series episode 1

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Spanning across China, India and Myanmar, the Far Eastern Himalaya is home to the world’s rarest flora and fauna and is rich in natural resources. But with growing habitat degradation caused both by climate change impacts and human activities, there is a real need to understand biodiversity conservation issues through a wider and larger transboundary landscape perspective. For the last 13 years, we have been working towards this with our partners in China, India, and Myanmar to promote regional collaboration in biodiversity conservation and a system of development through our Landscape Initiative for the Far Eastern Himalaya (HI-LIFE). We try to address conservation issues and build collaboration among scientists, development practitioners, and decision makers, especially government bodies.

Towards this goal, we are organising a webinar series focusing on fostering a wider understanding of our shared Far Eastern Himalaya Landscape. The first episode focused on ‘Exploring future investments in biodiversity research and monitoring’, and included technical presentations, key note speeches, and interactive discussions that covered a wide range of issues, including on how to achieve the goals and targets for the Post-2020 Global Biodiversity Framework and what role scientific communities need to play to highlight and communicate existing knowledge.

Key messages

There were three keynote speeches from experts and 12 thematic presentations on wide topics like land use change, orchids, cryptic species, arable plants, and other key issues related to biodiversity. Our ICIMOD team also shared a review of past scientific research and existing knowledge about biodiversity of the landscape. The reviewed found that biodiversity research in the landscape started as early as 1863 and saw a steep rise in the number of researches in the past 10 years. Researches have recorded over 800 bird species, 240 mammal species, and 6,000 plant species. An interactive session on biodiversity data sharing and management introduced different platforms, such as GBIF and HKH RDS, which are for free and open access data for biodiversity, and a mobile-based app called Biotrack that is designed for field data recording and management in biodiversity surveys. Experts talked about the importance of scientific data in achieving biodiversity targets under the climate change scenario.

Through the different expert talk sessions, participants were able to understand research priorities from scientists, policy makers, protected area managers, and international organisations. Professionals working in the government (especially those involved in protected area management) and conservationists from international conservation organisations working on the ground provided valuable inputs during the discussions.

Some of the key messages from the webinar are listed below:

  • A wealth of knowledge, information, and data has been generated from the Far Eastern Himalayan Landscape, especially in recent years. There is also a lot of scope for future studies given the huge size of the region and the complexity of issues.
  • Many institutions and scientists conduct research on the landscape, such as Southeast Asia Biodiversity Research Institute (SEABRI), which is a joint venture of Myanmar and China; GB Pant National Institute of Himalayan Environment, India; and Kunming Institute of Botany, China. There is potential of promoting research collaboration among institutions.
  • There is also a trend of collaboration between scientists from countries both within and outside the region. A good example is a strong collaboration between the scientists in China and USA, and also Myanmar and China. The joint research collaborations for biodiversity surveys between China and Myanmar have led to the discovery of many new species (https://doi.org/10.1002/ajp.23372; https://doi.org/10.1016/j.gecco.2021.e01736 )
  • There is a good scope to make use of the findings for evidence-based decision making and management. There is a good opportunity to make data more meaningful and promote the use of the findings, and translate into the language of policy makers and decision makers.
  • The technical papers presented during the webinar will also be used for a biodiversity resource book that HI-LIFE is developing, and data will be part of ICIMOD’s Regional Database System that takes the knowledge to a wider audience.
Diversity in participation

This is first of three episodes in the series planned for 2022 that will target a diverse group of professionals – from scientists and communication experts to policy makers, practitioners, and funding agencies – who are working in or may have a future interest in the landscape. The first episode had nearly 60 participants from Bangladesh, China, India, Myanmar, Nepal, Russia, Singapore, Thailand, Vietnam, and European countries, and various nationals representing international organisations. The diverse participation was fitting for the purpose of the webinar: creating a platform to encourage diverse landscape perspectives and promoting the sharing and use of knowledge.

Next step: Second webinar on taking science to practice

HI-LIFE now invites practitioners and decision makers to substantiate this scientific evidence of rich biodiversity in the Far Eastern Himalayan Landscape through conservation and management actions. We will discuss policy and resource management priorities of the three countries in the upcoming second episode of the webinar series.


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