Project Description

Selection 0304 21:00

Download your copy of the Myanmar Biodiversity Conservation Investment Vision report at this link.

In January 2012, the Wildlife Conservation Society with the support of the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, assembled over 80 of the country’s environmental experts from civil society and government to discuss the current status of the country’s biodiversity, the threats it faces and the priorities for future investment to ensure that it is sustained. The results of this are the first steps in a process of government and civil society working together for environmental conservation in Myanmar.

The process identified all species of conservation concern found in the country, as currently assessed by the Red List of IUCN. This includes over 100 species classified as globally Endangered and Critically Endangered. In many cases the remaining habitats in Myanmar are globally important for these species survival because large tracts of habitat still remain. Many other species groups are too poorly studied and insufficiently known to understand their true status.

Using international criteria stakeholders also identified and prioritized 132 Key Biodiversity Areas (KBAs) throughout the country. These sites are defined as areas holding significant populations of species of high conservation concern. The information used to identify and prioritize KBAs is still patchy and often outdated, new information is needed to update priority KBAs. At present only 25% of these areas are afforded any legal protection.

Such sites cannot function as separated entities and connectivity is required to ensure that the full range of environmental services continue to function, and, following a standard process, sites were grouped together to identify conservation corridors, which cover almost 60% of the country. These corridors have been defined as the cornerstone of biodiversity conservation in Myanmar. In moving ahead, connectivity and compatible land uses need to be planned to keep natural systems intact for biodiversity and human well‐being.

However, this rich biodiversity is under increasing threat. Through this process stakeholders identified human encroachment, commercial over‐exploitation of animals and fish, agricultural expansion and logging as the greatest current threats. The additional threat of climate change is poorly understood, and although not identified as a high concern currently this is likely to change in the near future. The roots causes of these threats were also discussed extensively, of particular concern were low conservation awareness, poverty, weak systematic biological monitoring systems, low grassroots support for conservation and weak law enforcement.

Moving forward government and civil society actors prioritized the following actions through this process:

  • Expand Conservation Action in KBAs – This includes the improvement and expansion of the national protected area system, as well as piloting new management systems engaging communities and the private sector in conservation.
  • Mainstream Biodiversity Conservation into National Development Planning – Renewed interest in foreign investment in the country will result in new infrastructure, industry and expanded agricultural production. Biodiversity and environmental services need to be carefully considered in relation to these developments.
  • Target Conservation Actions for Priority Species – Despite effective conservation across KBAs certain species (eg tiger, Asian elephant and Irrawaddy dolphin) need specific conservation action immediately. Many of these species are specifically targeted by illegal trade or are poorly known and further research is necessary to understand how they can be effectively conserved.
  • Increase Public Participation and Awareness – Biodiversity conservation cannot be achieved solely through government run programs. The participation of the citizens of Myanmar is an integral part of the process and a broader engagement of civil society is necessary to achieve conservation success.
  • Identify No-regrets Actions for Ecosystem ‐ based Global Climate Change Adaptation – Future consequences of global climate change is difficult to predict but all stakeholders agreed it is better to err on the side of caution, expanding the protected area network to maintain viable populations, maximize adaptive capacity and potentially capture refugia . This process should prioritize large intact landscapes and ensure functional connectivity beyond protected areas.