Important Bird Areas as centres of biodiversity and providers of ecosystem services
What birds and biodiversity do Nepal’s Important Bird Areas conserve?
Spiny Babbler (Jyotendra Jyu Thakuri)
Knowledge of the bird fauna of Nepal’s IBAs is still incomplete. However, an amazing 547 bird species has been recorded from Chitwan National Park IBA. The network of IBAs in Nepal is known to be home to some 30 globally threatened bird species and includes important populations of Nepal’s only endemic bird species, Spiny Babbler. Although it is the bird fauna that defines the IBA network, the conservation of these sites should help ensure the survival of a correspondingly large number of species in other groups. For example, lowland IBAs such as Chitwan National Park, Bardia National Park and Suklaphanta Wildlife Reserve support globally threatened large mammals such as Indian Rhinoceros, Tiger and Asian Elephant and reptiles including the Mugger Crocodile and Gharial. High altitude IBAs, for example, Kanchenjunga Conservation Area, Shey Phoksundo National Park and Langtang National Park also harbour globally threatened mammals such as Snow Leopard, Himalayan Tahr and Himalayan Musk Deer. The Mai Valley IBA in east Nepal is a hotspot for medicinal and aromatic plants.
What ecosystem services do Nepal’s Important Bird Areas deliver? Many important ecosystem services are delivered across the network of 27 IBAs. For example, water provision is delivered at all the IBAs and has been identified as the most important service for 90% of them. Harvested wild goods, including food, fibre, natural medicines and fuelwood for cooking and heating, recreation/tourism and global climate regulation are also recorded as being of high importance across the majority of sites. Local climate and air quality regulation, erosion control, spiritual/religious experience, reducing the impact of weather events and improving water quality are also delivered by ecosystems in most sites, though are generally considered of lesser importance (see figure, and p.35 for information on assessing ecosystem services using a rapid appraisal).
Proportion of IBAs delivering different ecosystem services and their relative importance
SOURCE Based on information provided at an expert consultation workshop.
An example from Shivapuri Nagarjun National Park IBA Shivapuri Nagarjun National Park is an IBA near Kathmandu, the capital of Nepal. It is mostly forested, with over 300 species of bird and more than 20 species of mammal recorded. The forests are a carbon store and so contribute to global climate regulation, and the park is well used for recreational activities. However, water is undoubtedly the most important service, as the park provides nearly 60% of the annual freshwater requirements of 2.5 million people. “The Government of Nepal had the foresight to designate the watershed as a National Park in 2002. Now we can all appreciate its value for biodiversity and a range of other ecosystem services” says Gopal Bhattarai, Warden. “It’s vital that we manage this protected area carefully, for the benefit of both local and downstream communities”. For more details of this study, see p.28.