From subtropical forests and grasslands in the southern foothills to alpine meadows in the north, forest types in Bhutan are; Fir Forests, Mixed Conifer Forest, Blue Pine Forest, Chirpine Forest, Broadleaf mixed with Conifer, Upland Hardwood Forest, Lowland Hardwood Forest, and Tropical Lowland Forests. These forests are home to numerous species of flora and fauna.
Known as the East Himalayan ‘hot spot,’ forests of Bhutan is a paradise for 670 recorded species of birds including 221 globally endemic species. It has about 415 resident bird species that migrate depending on seasons.
Beside magnolias, junipers, orchids and medicinal plants, Bhutan’s forests boast of 46 species of rhododendrons. Endangered species of animals such as now leopard, royal Bengal tigers, golden langur and red panda wander in forests of Bhutan.
Today, Bhutan has 10 protected sites: 5 national parks, 4 wildlife sanctuaries and 1 nature preserve covering an area of more than 42% of the country’s total area. The protected areas system in the country was initiated since 1960’s.
Other major steps to protect environment by the government are banning of the ‘shifting cultivation’ practice in 1969 and banning of timber export and sale of plastics in the 1990s.
Although Bhutan depended on firewood as a fuel source for heating, lighting and cooking, hydroelectric power has replaced it. Bhutan has a potential of generating 30,000 MW, of which 1,615 MW of hydropower capacity has been installed. Powerful rivers, that pressures turbines to produce electricity, flow through the forests fed by tributaries.
The constitution of Bhutan charges every Bhutanese to be a trustee of the Kingdom’s natural resources and environment. The Constitution further charges the Government to ensure a minimum of 60% of country’s land under forest cover for all time.
With confirmed forest cover of 72%, which is a way beyond the mandate of constitution, it is a carbon sink with the capacity to absorb 6 million tons of carbon annually where as Bhutan emits only 1.5 million tons of carbon in a year. Thus, Bhutan is not carbon neutral but the only carbon negative country in the world.