The Himalayan Environmental Rhythms Observation and Evaluation System (HEROES), Ugyen Wangchuck Institute for Conservation and Environment (UWICE), selected 17 schools from various ecological belts of the country to monitor and gather data on the temperature changes, snowfall and rainfall events and river flows in their region for a year.
HEROES is a schools and communities based program for monitoring changes in temperature, snowfall, rainfall and phenology within the vicinity of selected schools. The program is expected provide crucial data regarding the impact of climate change.
According to the focal person of HEROES, Chenga Tshering, the year-long school based phenology monitoring system in Bhutan closely monitored, recorded and reported plant’s phenological event, such as the timing for budburst, young leaf, flower bud, open flower, ripe fruit and leaf fall.
Within six months, HEROES has collected over 30,000 phenology records and compiled an observations report for about 30 species of trees, 10 species of shrubs and 10 species of herbs. “On average, each school has reported observation of 120 days since February 2014,” Chenga Tshering said.
“Involvement of schools and communities is a great achievement as we would be able to convince young minds on the importance of nature and its phenomenon,” he said.
The teachers of the 17 schools were trained in basic taxonomic skills and using the software developed by UWICE for gathering data.
The monitoring data is expected to help in the understanding of environmental (temperature and precipitation) changes and cycles, biological (phenology and animal population) change and cycles and design effective adaptation strategies to combat climate change.
The focal person of HEROES said that it is early to draw any conclusive results based on few months’ worth of data, however, it is hoped that the six months exercise on phenology observing would be used in refinement and standardization of phenology observing and reporting protocols.
The HEROES was initiated as there was no systematic system in place to understand the nature and extent of environmental changes in the Himalayas, apart from scattered and low resolution meteorological. Hence, UWICE proposed for the establishment of a system which adds to existing meteorological observation systems by incorporating long-term phenological and wildlife population monitoring data.
With the rapid global warming, mountain ecosystems are said to be increasingly under stress and undergoing profound and unpredictable changes. The Himalayas are no exception to the changes and understanding the drivers and manifestations of such changes is deemed to be crucial to help communities to successfully adapt to climate change in the Himalayas and other mountain regions of the world.