Country Profiles

Myanmar - Country Profile

Biodiversity Facts

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

The content of this biodiversity profile is still draft. The text below has been prepared by SCBD and remains subject to final approval by the Party concerned.

Myanmar is rich in biodiversity due to its diverse ecosystems and varying sea level to mountain peak elevations. Among its ecosystems, forests are considered to be integral to the stability of the environment, however, the country also supports a large diversity of freshwater ecosystems, ranging from fast-flowing mountain streams to wide, slow-flowing lowland rivers, as well as lakes and other non-flowing wetlands. Myanmar is also endowed with some of the most extensive and least disturbed coastal and marine ecosystems in mainland Southeast Asia. Its extensive coastline accommodates half a million hectares of brackish and freshwater swampland that supports essential ecological functions and habitats such as spawning, nursery and feeding grounds for aquatic organisms like fish, prawns and other aquatic fauna and flora of economic importance. Overall, the country counts 11,800 species of vascular plants of gymnosperms and angiosperms, 251 mammals, 1,056 bird species, 279 reptiles, 82 amphibians, 841 medicinal plants, 96 bamboos and many tropical crop species. The Dry Zone is well known for the production of oil seeds and cotton, especially under developed irrigation systems and the Taninthayi region is suitable for cultivating rubber and fruit crops. Myanmar is also rich with diverse inland water and freshwater diversity, with over 350 freshwater fish species (a significant portion of which may be endemic), over 800 marine fish species, 9 species of seagrass, 51 coral species and five of the world’s marine turtles are found in Myanmar’s waters.

However immense, Myanmar’s genetic diversity is eroding due to the introduction of modern varieties and technology to feed an ever-expanding population. The country counts 144 globally threatened species, among which there are four critically endangered species of mammals, birds and reptiles, respectively, and 13 critically endangered plant species. In addition, 39 endangered species have been reported (including 12 plant species and 10 reptiles) and 80 vulnerable species (among which are 33 birds and 26 mammals). Trends are declining for marine turtles (primarily due to their capture for consumption and ornamental crafting, destruction of nesting sites and egg collection) and large mammals, like tigers and elephants, are highly vulnerable to local extinction due to improper sex ratio and reduction of home ranges by human activities. The same negative trend is observed in various natural environments, such as forest and inland water habitats. While FAO’s Global Forest Resources Assessment (2005) indicated that about 50% of the total land area of the country is covered with forests, this area decreased by 7% between 1990 and 2005 as a result of human pressure and forest cover changes. Likewise, decline of inland water biodiversity is common due to increased demand on freshwater resources and drainage of wetlands for agriculture and urbanization.

Myanmar relies largely on ecosystem services and biodiversity for the livelihood of its population and economic growth. A particularly salient example of this dependency is the agricultural sector, which represents 36% of the GDP and 13.3% of the country’s total export earnings, and employs 61.2% of the total labor force. With 18 million ha of total arable land and a population growth rate of 1.75%, the agriculture sector will play a very significant role in the future, both in terms of employment, economic growth and food security (the country’s population is expected to reach 60 million by 2015). Forests are also fundamental to the socio-economic well-being of the people of Myanmar, providing local villagers not only numerous forest products to fulfill their basic needs but also contributing substantial foreign exchange earnings to the State economy, notably through timber trade.

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

The content of this biodiversity profile is still draft. The text below has been prepared by SCBD and remains subject to final approval by the Party concerned.

Major threats to biodiversity in Myanmar include hunting, overfishing, forest depletion and degradation, encroachment, forest fires, habitat destruction (which is expected to grow due to increasing urbanization), climate change, introduction of alien invasive species and increasing markets for wildlife and their derivatives in neighboring countries (i.e. illegal trade in wildlife and their products).

Measures to Enhance Implementation of the Convention

Implementation of the NBSAP

The content of this biodiversity profile is still draft. The text below has been prepared by SCBD and remains subject to final approval by the Party concerned.

The goal of the country’s first NBSAP released in 2011 is “to provide a strategic planning framework for the effective and efficient conservation and management of biodiversity and natural resources with greater transparency, accountability and equity”. It sets out two specific objectives: to set the priorities for conservation investment in biodiversity management, and to develop the range of options for addressing the issue of biodiversity conservation.

Actions taken to achieve the 2020 Aichi Biodiversity Targets

The content of this biodiversity profile is still draft. The text below has been prepared by SCBD and remains subject to final approval by the Party concerned.

Actions taken to conserve biodiversity components include: the protection and rehabilitation of remaining natural forests; establishment of forest plantations to control desertification; promotion of wood fuel substitutes; establishment of community forestry; rescuing endangered wild species of crops and crop landraces; characterizing genetic diversity for the efficient and sustainable use of crop genetic resources; developing agro-environmental techniques; establishing a system for the management of plant genetic resources, including collections and seed banks; and enhanced international cooperation to protect threatened marine turtles. Sustainable agricultural practices are being promoted, with soil biodiversity improved as a result of organic farming practices, and a number of research activities have been conducted for conserving plant genetic diversity. Guided by the National Forest Policy and Master Plan, the Forest Department has moreover made strenuous efforts to expand the coverage of protected areas during the last decade. Myanmar has established 36 protected areas (95% terrestrial), six of which are recognized as ASEAN Heritage Parks. The percentage of land area covered by protected areas was calculated in 2010 as 37,894.48 km2, equivalent to 5.6% of the country. This is considered a relative achievement since the 10% policy target was set to be achieved by 2030 and protected areas constituted less than 1% of the total land area prior to 1996.

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

The content of this biodiversity profile is still draft. The text below has been prepared by SCBD and remains subject to final approval by the Party concerned.

Biodiversity is integrated into the education sector, providing students with knowledge about biodiversity and its values, and seminars and workshops on specific issues are organized. Likewise, the health sector is taking measures to conserve traditional medicinal plants through establishing herbal gardens, while the livestock and fisheries sector encourages sustainable fishing and breeding practices. Biodiversity conservation has also been introduced in amended laws and policies related to forestry, some of which were adopted a long time ago. For instance, Myanmar’s Agenda 21 promotes the sustainable management of forest, freshwater and marine ecosystems and land use, as well as strengthening the protected areas networks. The National Sustainable Development Strategy (2006) promotes the following objectives: (i) sustainable management of forest, freshwater, land, marine, mineral resources; (ii) biodiversity conservation; (iii) sustainable development of agriculture, livestock and fishery, as well as tourism, transport, energy, industry. Other relevant strategies and policies concerning biodiversity protection include the thirty-year National Forest Master Plan, the Dry Zone Greening Action Plan and the National Biosafety Framework. The Ministry of Environmental Conservation and Forestry (MOECAF) is the main agency responsible for implementing the national policy on nature conservation in Myanmar however other ministries, such as the Ministry of Agriculture and Irrigation (MOAI) and the Ministry of Livestock and Fisheries (MOLF), also share responsibility and accountability for biodiversity conservation. Finally, the National Environmental Conservation Committee (NECC) was recently formed in an attempt to consolidate environmental conservation activities at local and national levels. The Committee is chaired by the Minister of the MOECAF and now includes 21 members from 19 ministries, thus being one of the most important tools for biodiversity protection and mainstreaming.

Mechanisms for monitoring and reviewing implementation

The content of this biodiversity profile is still draft. The text below has been prepared by SCBD and remains subject to final approval by the Party concerned.

Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) constitutes the main mechanism for monitoring biodiversity. Surveys prepared in this framework include monitoring the impacts of human and natural disasters on regions or areas which usually suffer from ecosystem imbalance and its consequences. Information gathering and close monitoring have also been emphasized in regard to sharks, dolphins, marine turtles and dugong, as well as GMOs. Notably, the National Environmental Conservation Committee has been monitoring the implementation of environment conservation activities in Myanmar and providing guidance as necessary.