WWF Bhutan and Wangchuck Centennial Park (WCP) are pleased to release a new report: Climate Change Vulnerability Assessment of Wangchuck Centennial Park. This assessment represents the first attempt to integrate climate change adaptation into conservation efforts in Bhutan.
As a predominantly mountainous region, Bhutan is susceptible to increasing risks from glacial lake outburst floods (GLOFs) and erratic rain fall patterns causing landslides, flash floods, and changing water availability. These phenomena are widely attributed to climate change and are expected to increase in severity over the coming decades, with profound implications on its ecosystems, traditional livelihoods, and development trajectory.
Realizing climate change as one of the biggest threats to conservation and livelihood improvement, WWF collaborated with scientists, policy experts and conservationists to initiate a pilot study in WCP to assess the vulnerability on biodiversity, livelihoods, and water resources.
The ultimate goal is to enhance the preparedness, adaptive capacity, and resilience of vulnerable communities, biodiversity, and water resources in and around WCP. The report describes the current environmental and socio-economic conditions of the park, outlines their potential vulnerabilities to climate change, and also offers recommendations.
The results of the study indicate that alpine habitat will be vulnerable to forest intrusion, impacting the alpine-specialist species, while forest-dwelling species such as tigers could benefit from habitat expansion.
Livelihood vulnerability responses confirmed local perceptions of climatic changes, such as perceptibly higher temperatures, increased intensity of rainfall events, erratic precipitation, a shift in the onset and end of the monsoon, and changes in snowmelt.
Increased intensity of rainfall events, erratic precipitation, a shift in monsoon timing, and changes in snowmelt will have impacts that are unevenly distributed over space and time, with the potential to impact drinking and irrigation water supply. The changes could also have implications for the two hydroelectric projects being planned immediately downstream of WCP.
Based on these vulnerabilities, several park management recommendations have been proposed, including:
• maintain habitat connectivity to enable climate-vulnerable species to migrate to suitable climates;
• secure climate resilient habitat within core areas;
• introduce irrigation and water storage technology to make agriculture more sustainable and less dependent on rainfall;
• promote sustainable Cordyceps harvesting as a viable livelihood;
• proactive actions to ease pressure on alpine habitats;
• monitor for spread of diseases and invasive species;
• raise awareness of climate change and the need for adaptation through diversified livelihoods and agriculture crops;
• create community-level capacity in drinking water allocation and quality; and
• study, test and implement local drought and flood mitigation techniques.