ICIMOD Hosts International Mountain Biodiversity Conference in Kathmandu: Immediate action urged to combat loss of biological diversity in the Himalayas

Press release from 17 November 2008: Urgent need for biodiversity data for the Himalayan Region

The two-day workshop “Linking Geodata with Biodiversity Information in the Himalayas” organised by the International Centre for Integrated Mountain Development (ICIMOD) and the Global Mountain Biodiversity Programme (GMBA) concluded on Sunday 16th November with a call to create a mountain biodiversity information network in the Hindu Kush-Himalayan region for mutual benefit and transboundary cooperation. The workshop was organized as a precursor to the ongoing International Mountain Biodiversity Conference and was attended by representatives from ICIMOD’s regional
member countries: Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, China, India, Myanmar, Nepal, and Pakistan. The workshop emphasised the increasing need for geo-coded information in the inventory and assessment of biodiversity that are essential for management strategies and conservation interventions as well as for developing and testing scientific hypotheses.

Dr. Andreas Schild, Director General of ICIMOD welcomed the participants and emphasised the importance of geo-coded information in understanding the rapid environmental changes that are taking place in mountain ecosystems. He highlighted the significant role that ICIMOD can play to promote regional approaches and a methodology for filling the data gap in the Himalayas. Professor Christian Körner, chair of the Global Mountain Biodiversity Programme, stressed the biophysical characteristics of the mountains which are endowed with immense biodiversity. Locational information is not only fundamental for understanding biodiversity but also helps us to explore the evolutionary process of species. There is a need to build a corporate community for making mountain biodiversity information available to a wider scientific community and policy-makers.

ICIMOD and GMBA shared their experiences in developing GIS-enabled biodiversity portals as a gateway for biodiversity information and demonstrated the benefit of geo-referenced biodiversity data for integrated analysis and spatial visualisation of biodiversity information in relation to climate, land use, physiography, and other important parameters. The workshop participants deliberated on ways of improving the
biodiversity database at the national and local levels, the need for standardisation and harmonisation for data exchange, and providing a way to facilitate easy and open access to geo-coded biodiversity information. The workshop participants emphasised the role of ICIMOD as a regional knowledge hub on biodiversity by linking with global level initiatives and customising relevant international knowledge and experience, and thereby
transferring the necessary technology to the member countries. The participants stressed the importance of creating a mountain biodiversity information network in the Hindu Kush-Himalayan region for mutual benefit and transboundary cooperation.

For further information contact:

Mr. Basanta Shrestha
Division Head
Mountain Environment and Natural Resources’ Information System/ICIMOD
Khumaltar, Lalitpur, GPO Box 3226, Kathmandu, Nepal
Tel: +977-1-5003222, Fax: +977 1 5003299
Email: bshrestha@icimod.org
Web: www.icimod.org

Press release from Kathmandu, 16 November 2008

Globalisation and climate change are threatening biodiversity in even the most remote parts of the Himalayan mountains. As rain patterns change and the temperature increases, the unique plants that grow in this harsh environment may die out, threatening the animals and insects that depend on them, and the livelihoods of the mountain people who use them. There are many stories of change, and anecdotal evidence is abundant, but in this vast region there is very little hard scientific information, information that is urgently needed so that appropriate actions can be planned to combat and limit the coming problems. A key problem is the alarming lack of systematic data for the Himalayan region, so much so that recently the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) the world’s foremost authority on this subject, called the entire Himalayan region a
‘white spot’ on the global climactic map, an area where there was so little systematic information available that scientists and planners had to ‘guess in the dark’ when making predictions and planning for the future.

ICIMOD together with International Union for Conservation of Nature – World Commission on Protected Areas (IUCN-WCPA), World Wide Fund–Nepal (WWF-NP), Global Mountain Biodiversity Assessment (GMBA) and UNESCO’s Man and Biosphere (UNESCO-MAB) is now bringing together scientists and planners from across the world at a meeting in Kathmandu to discuss ways to fill this gap and tackle the problems of biodiversity conservation by looking at how climate change is affecting mountain biodiversity, how biodiversity can best be managed for economic goods and ecosystem services from the mountains, and how to achieve long-term continuity in mountain research programmes from the many different organisations involved — from government to NGOs.

The International Conference on Mountain Biodiversity is taking place from 16-18 November 2008 at the ICIMOD Headquarters in Khumalatar, Lalitpur, in the Kathmandu Valley of Nepal. Some 75 renowned biodiversity, climate change, and conservation experts, representatives of global programmes, and representatives of the eight countries that share the Himalayan region — from more than 20 countries in all — will meet to discuss ways of systematically gathering and sharing the information needed, developing a reliable picture of the present situation, and formulating approaches to respond. The aim is to provide a forum where world-renowned experts andrepresentatives of global programmes can discuss issues with the countries of the Himalayan region to develop a common future strategy for mountain biodiversity conservation. The Conference is accompanied by two pre-conference workshops on Mountain Transboundary Protected Areas (10-14 November 2008), and Linking Geodata with Biodiversity Information (15-16 November 2008), and a post-conference workshop on a Research Strategy on Global Change in Mountain Biosphere Reserves (19 November 2008) which will provide opportunities to discuss and agree special aspects of this important topic.

The Hon’ble Minister Ganesh Shah, Ministry of Environment, Science and Technology of the Government of Nepal, was the Chief Guest at the opening of the conference. A special message sent by the Executive Secretary of the Secretariat of the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD), Dr. Ahmed Djoghlaf, emphasised the importance and timeliness of the meeting. Dr Djoghlaf called on all governments to start preparations for the International Year of Biodiversity in 2010, at which time the Programme of Work on Mountain Biological Diversity would be reviewed by the 10th meeting of the Conference of the Parties (COP) to the CBD. The contributions of ICIMOD and the galaxy of international organizations such as the Global Mountain Biodiversity Assessment, Mountain Partnership, Mountain Forum, and Mountain Research Initiative have been and will be critical. Says Dr. Andreas Schild, Director General of ICIMOD, “The loss of biological diversity in these ecologically sensitive areas poses a threat to the security of the Himalayan region and endangers the world’s global genetic heritage. Himalayan biodiversity is disappearing at an alarming rate and the time to act is now.”

Read more at http://www.icimod.org/imbc

For further information contact:
Dr Eklabya Sharma
Programme Manager
Environmental Change and Ecosystems Services (ECES)/ICIMOD
Khumaltar, Lalitpur, GPO Box 3226, Kathmandu, Nepal
Tel: +977-1-5003222, Fax: +977 1 5003299
Email: esharma@icimod.org

About ICIMOD
The International Centre for Integrated Mountain Development (ICIMOD) is the only international centre devoted to sustainable mountain development. ICIMOD’s mission is to enable and facilitate the equitable and sustainable well-being of the people of the Hindu Kush-Himalayas by supporting sustainable mountain development through active regional cooperation. As a regional knowledge and learning centre, ICIMOD is perfectly positioned to help build organisational and technological capacities, and facilitate dialogue and shared learning between its member countries and other stakeholders. www.icimod.org

About Global Mountain Biodiversity Assessment
Global Mountain
Biodiversity Assessment (GMBA) is a cross cutting research
network of DIVERSITAS, which in cooperation with the Global Biodiversity
Information Facility (GBIF) is promoting biodiversity databases worldwide.
GMBA aims to establish geo-referenced species databases as a tool for the
assessment of mountain diversity, addressing a strong need for
collaboration in communication, data collecting standardisation, and data
interpretation with respect to the data collected on diversity, climate,
and physiography. http://gmba.unibas.ch/index/index.htm


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