Bhutan’s rich biodiversity just got richer

Adding to an already rich biodiversity are 21 new species of amphibian, insects and an equal mixture of both flowering and non-flowering plants discovered in Bhutan.

These have been clubbed in a book, “The Eastern Himalayas: where the world collides,” launched by WWF on August 10. Also included in the discovery list are 7 species of grass root parasite, commonly called lousewort, and a unique frog species, Scutiger bhutanensis.

A total of 353 new species have been discovered in the eastern Himalayas – the whole of Bhutan, parts of India and Nepal – from 1998 to 2008, that amounts to an average of 35 new species every year. The list includes 244 plants, 16 amphibians, 16 reptiles, 14 fish, 2 birds, 2 mammals and about 60 new invertebrates.

Although the book boasts of the new discovery as a result of the richness of bio-diversity in the eastern Himalayas, it pointed out that these species were threatened by forest destruction, shifting cultivation, illegal poaching, pollution and poorly planned infrastructure.

Addressing the launch, agriculture secretary, Sherub Gyeltshen, said, “Notwithstanding incredible diversity of biological resources, the eastern Himalayas, including Bhutan, is faced with many threats and challenges, the most prominent ones of which are climate change and poaching. Both of these pressing challenges are trans-boundary and regional in nature and scale,” he said, adding that there should me more emphasis on an exigent need of multinational cooperation, support and collaboration among countries.

The program director of WWF, Vijay Moktan, told Kuensel that the discoveries showcase the unexplored biodiversity in the Himalayas. “This indicates that ecosystems, necessary for the survival of species in Bhutan, are still intact despite emerging development pressures. Bhutan still provides east-west and north-south connectivity for the eastern Himalayas and its diverse species to thrive and evolve.”

Before the new discoveries were made, the eastern Himalayas were home to 10,000 plant species, 300 mammal species, 977 bird species, 176 reptiles, 105 amphibians and 269 types of freshwater fish, according to WWF.

Further species are being unearthed, with more species of amphibians, reptiles and fish currently in the process of being officially named by scientists. The eastern Himalayas, being one of the last biological frontiers of Asia, has 47.4 percent of its area under protection. Bhutan, in the near future, could take centre-stage in hosting a myriad of thriving gene flow, states WWF.

By: Kinga Dema
Source: Kuensel

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