Country Profiles

Guyana - Country Profile

Biodiversity Facts

Status and trends of biodiversity, including benefits from biodiversity and ecosystem services

Guyana’s total size is 215,000 km2 and its coastline is around 434 km long. Approximately 85% of its total land area is covered by forest (18.5 million hectares). In 2012, Guyana recorded a deforestation rate of less than 1%. Forests in Guyana can be classified as rainforest (36%), montane forest (35%), swamp and marsh (15%), dry evergreen (7%), seasonal forest (6%), and mangrove forest (1%). The state of the country’s biodiversity is considered, for the most part, intact but understudied.

Guyana’s floral diversity is estimated to include over 8,000 species, with approximately 6,500 of these species having been identified, and 50% considered endemic. There are approximately 1,815 known species of fishes, amphibians, birds, reptiles and mammals. Fishes are very diverse, with 352 species of freshwater bony fishes and 501 species of marine fishes. Limited studies were conducted in the field of genetic diversity and mostly restricted to the agriculture sector. The percentage of cultivated land is approximately 2.37% (4,666 km2).

Guyana is one of the eight member countries of the Treaty of Amazonian Cooperation (ACTO), thereby contributing to the vast biodiversity of the Amazon region which has the largest area of tropical rainforest in the world.

Main pressures on and drivers of change to biodiversity (direct and indirect)

Identified threats are associated with some of Guyana’s main economic activities, such as agriculture and extractive industries (forestry, and exploration/mining for gold, diamond and bauxite). Direct threats to biodiversity include overfishing and overhunting, savannah and forest fires, indiscriminate land use practices (mining, logging, and agriculture), poaching of wildlife, inappropriate use of agro-chemicals, introduction of alien invasive species, climate change events and related natural disasters. Indirect threats mainly originate from institutional fragmentation and conflicting legislation, limited knowledge of biodiversity and species range and distribution, insufficient environmental law enforcement, limited number of legalized, demarcated and managed protected areas, and the opening up of areas to commercial activity.

Measures to Enhance Implementation of the Convention

Implementation of the NBSAP

Guyana’s first National Biodiversity Action Plan (NBAP) (1999-2004) was prepared with the overall goal “to promote and achieve the conservation of Guyana’s biodiversity, to use its components in a sustainable way, and to encourage the fair and equitable sharing of benefits arising out of the use of Guyana’s biodiversity”. In 2004, the Environment Protection Agency (EPA), with assistance from the UNDP, conducted a review of the NBAP to identify achievements and setbacks and plan for a second action plan.

The second NBAP (2007-2011) followed a thematic approach rather than a programmatic approach. The four thematic areas addressed were forests, agriculture, coastal resources, and marine and freshwater resources. Cross-cutting issues were also identified. Further, in an effort to more effectively coordinate activities for NBAP II implementation, the EPA’s Strategic Plan (2006-2010) addressed the provision of adequate institutional structure, human and financial resources for this purpose. Additionally, the National Strategy and Action Plan (2007-2011) for Synergistic Environmental Capacity Development for Biodiversity, Climate Change and Land Degradation, outlined approaches to facilitate efficient implementation of NBAP II.

Plans to develop a National Biodiversity Strategy and Action Plan III (NBSAP III) are underway. A review of natural resources and management and related arrangements and legislation will be undertaken and informed by the Aichi Biodiversity Targets.

Guyana has developed a Low Carbon Development Strategy (LCDS) for which implementation began in 2010. This document sets out Guyana’s strategy to forge a low-carbon economy, which ultimately seeks to mitigate the impacts of climate change, given the country’s enormous forest cover and extremely low deforestation rate. The LCDS is currently being implemented by the Office of Climate Change, and the Guyana Forestry Commission, with key sector agencies under the Ministry of Natural Resources and the Environment. The LCDS would serve as a cornerstone for development and implementation of the next NBSAP.

Actions taken to achieve the 2020 Aichi Biodiversity Targets

A number of strategies, plans and programmes have been developed and are being implemented. These include the development of the Integrated Coastal Zone Management Plan, preparation of Wildlife Conservation and Management Regulations, and the development of a National Biosafety Framework, National Policy on Access and Benefit-sharing and related draft Regulations. Presently, the formulation of biosafety legislation is being undertaken, as well as a revision of the National Policy on Biosafety. Moreover, a Mangrove Management Plan, Fisheries Act, Forest Act, Mining and Environment Regulations have been developed and the Species Protection Regulations have been revised to be enacted as the Wildlife Import and Export Act.

Approximately 9% of Guyana is under protected and/or conservation status. Conservation efforts have successfully established four legal protected areas: the Iwokrama Forest, the Kaieteur National Park, Shell Beach, and the Kanuku Mountains Protected Areas. The latter two areas were declared Protected Areas with the passage of the Protected Areas Act in 2011. The PA Act also mandated the establishment of the Protected Areas Commission (PAC), which was established in 2012. The PAC is responsible for the establishment and management the National Protected Areas System. Ex situ conservation efforts have been ongoing through field gene banks, seed banks and in vitro collection, mainly, by institutions such as the National Agricultural Research and Extension Institute, Guyana Sugar Corporation and the Guyana Rice Development Board.

In the past decade, major projects and studies were conducted in the North Rupununi Wetlands that included the Darwin Initiative Project to develop the North Rupununi Adaptive Management Plan. In addition, other major publications included the Monitoring Methods Manual (2006) and a State of the North Rupununi Wetlands Report (2006). WWF conducted an assessment of various wetlands in Guyana in 2011 and is currently supporting a study on the Black Caiman in the Rupununi. WWF is also providing technical assistance to communities and their North Rupununi District Development Board to monitor populations of the endangered Arapaima as part of a harvest management plan. In 2007, the Arapaima Management Plan was approved by Government and, in 2013, the WWF completed a Biodiversity Assessment Survey in the South Rupununi.

The Guyana Forestry Commission (GFC) has taken steps to restore/protect keystone species listed in the Code of Practice for Forest Harvesting. Further, the EPA established an Invasive Alien Species Task Force in 2008. Awareness materials have been developed outlining basic concepts and listing some invasive alien species found in Guyana.

Support mechanisms for national implementation (legislation, funding, capacity-building, coordination, mainstreaming, etc.)

Through the Environmental Protection Act (1996), the EPA is mandated with the overall responsibility for natural resources management, including a programme for conservation of biological diversity and its sustainable use and wildlife protection and management. The establishment of the National Protected Areas System and related management programmes which were also under EPA’s mandate are now being facilitated through the Protected Areas Commission (PAC). The EPA continues to execute the functions related to natural resources management as stipulated in the EPA Act, thus fulfilling Guyana’s requirements under the CBD with much collaboration between EPA, PAC, and other sector agencies under the Ministry of Natural Resources and the Environment. The EPA also monitors environmental conformity, particularly within the forestry and mining sectors. Forestry and mining operations are mandated to use environmentally-sound techniques to reduce emissions and environmental impacts of the operations through the preparation of ESIAs, EMPs, etc. Currently, the EPA is drafting Enforcement and Compliance Regulations to strengthen its enforcement arm.

The EPA also administers the research procedures for the conduct of academic research by external researchers on the country’s biodiversity and biodiversity-related topics. In this regard, the EPA has developed a National Biodiversity Research Information System software to manage the electronic processing of applications, and for the storage and retrieval of information.

With mining being a major driver of deforestation, mainstreaming biodiversity issues into the mining sector has become critical. The EPA is therefore developing a project to look at this issue with a view to conduct reclamation and re-forestation in degraded areas of the country.

The EPA executes functions related to education and public awareness and a National Environmental Awareness Strategy was developed. Biodiversity has been included in the Integrated Science Curriculum for secondary schools under the broad framework of environment. Local NGOs, such as Conservation International (Guyana), WWF, and the Environmental Community Health Organisation (ECHO) continue to promote biodiversity conservation and management and stimulate public interest and involvement. Therefore, work in the area of conservation awareness and education has been the most effective with respect to the implementation of the Convention.

In 2011, Guyana was approved to participate in the Small Grants Programme by the GEF Council, with UNDP facilitating implementation of the project. The programme provides grants of up to US$50,000 to local communities, community-based organizations and other non-governmental groups for projects in Biodiversity Conservation, Climate Change Mitigation and Adaptation, Prevention of Land Degradation and Sustainable Forest Management, Protection of International Waters, and Elimination of Persistent Organic Pollutants. Thus far, four (4) such projects have been awarded grants.

Mechanisms for monitoring and reviewing implementation

The actual level of ecological baseline data needed for monitoring and informed decision-making is inadequate. However, there have been several limited studies conducted locally, for example, on biodiversity, land use, and inland waters. The EPA also utilises permit conditions for authorised operations to conduct compliance and audits.

There have been biodiversity studies in the various sites of the National Protected Areas System, and continual taxonomic research into various biological groups in the country. Additionally, through the Iwokrama and North Rupununi District Development Board Initiative, Arapaima stock assessments were conducted in 2000, 2001, 2002, 2004 and 2008.

In 2007, the Guyana Geology and Mines Commission (GGMC) conducted a national monitoring programme on all major rivers to assess the water quality. The GGMC also conducts bi-weekly water quality assessments in some hotspot areas, and quarterly compliance environmental management activities are conducted in the mining district to gather information on forest clearance.

The Guyana Lands and Surveys Commission recently completed the GEF-funded Sustainable Land Management (SLM) Project, including a land degradation assessment and baseline studies, as well as watershed management for the Linden Soesdyke Road Corridor, in 2012. Through the SLM Project, a draft National Land Use Plan was completed in June 2013.

Under the LCDS, and through an agreement with Norway, a national framework for a Monitoring, Reporting, and Verification System (MRVS) was produced in 2009. The aim of the MRVS is to establish a comprehensive, national system to monitor, report, and verify forest carbon emissions resulting from deforestation and forest degradation in Guyana. Since then, three national annual assessments have been conducted which indicated low levels of deforestation below 0.1%.