Through the operationalization of Himalayan Environmental Rhythms Observation and Evaluation System (HEROES), Ugyen Wangchuck Institute for Conservation and Environment (UWICE) in Bumthang together with schools and a community will monitor temperature changes, snowfall and rainfall events, phenology and river flows in the Himalayan region.
UWICE will select about 10 to 15 schools from various ecological belts of the country. These selected schools will feed data in the software that UWICE will develop before the study begins. Prior to this UWICE will provide trainings to the teachers from those selected schools in basic taxonomic skills, introduce them to the developed software and entering data.
“We will need to work on getting computer and internet connection in selected schools which would be quite challenging,” said UWICE official Sangay Wangchuk. He said that once these things are in place, it will be directly linked where UWICE will manage database to study the phenological changing pattern with time.
Sangay Wangchuk also said that currently in the Himalayas, apart from scattered and low resolution meteorological data there are no systematic systems in place to understand the nature and extent of environmental changes. 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.
“To gain support from and ensure relevance, communities will be engaged in these monitoring efforts. Furthermore, we will also supplement monitoring information with satellite data,” said Sangay Wangchuk.
The monitoring data collected over a long period of time, according to officials of UWICE will help to understand environmental (temperature and precipitation) change and cycles, biological (phenology and animal population) change and cycles and design effective adaptation strategies to combat climate change.
Asked about what could be the result of such a monitoring project, the UWICE official claims to have diverse flora and fauna in the country. “But, if you ask anyone about the exact flowering/fruiting or animal migration pattern and time and how it changes, no one would be in the position to answer with confidence,” he said.
Thus, the institute felt the urgent need to understand such patterns to determine the change and to understand the cause of such changes. “Involvement of schools and communities itself would be great achievement as we would be able to convince young minds on the importance of nature and its phenomenon,” said Sangay Wangchuk.
Determined to kick-start the project either from fall of 2013 or spring 2014, UWICE is exploring potential donor agencies to fund the project. “We hope to get donor agencies interested to fund such studies,” UWICE Sangay Wangchuk said.
The UWICE’s Board of Governors during its second meeting on 30 November this year endorsed the proposal. However, given that the health ministry (MoH) is operationalizing a similar system to monitor health of communities in relation to environment, the Board instructed the Institute to collaborate with the MoH. For that UWICE will start dialogue with MoH soon after putting necessary things in place.
The Himalayas are one of the most magnificent mountain ranges on the planet. The forests and the watersheds in these mountains support an estimated tenth of the world’s population. As such, in addition to being a storehouse of unique biological diversity and storing a major chunk of the world’s water in the form of ice after the poles, the Himalayas also regulate regional climate and provide crucial eco-system services.
But with rapid global warming, mountain ecosystems are increasingly under stress and undergoing profound and unpredictable changes. The Himalayas are no exception. Understanding the drivers and manifestations of such changes will be crucial to help communities successfully adapt to climate change in the Himalayas and other mountain regions of the world.