Modelling Threatened Slipper Orchid Species Distributions Under Current and Future Climatic Scenario and Identification of Key Conservation Areas

Namgay Rinchen

Conservation of biodiversity has become a topic of utmost importance in the current times, where the unprecedented and erratic changes in climatic conditions has increased immense pressure on plant species leading some to the brink of extinction (Deb, Jamir, and Kikon 2017). Thus, it is of extreme importance that ecological niche of such species needs to be understood, to implement effective conservation activities.

The project is entitled as “Modelling threatened slipper orchid species distributions under current and future climatic scenario and identification of key conservation areas”.

The study focuses on two threatened species of orchids Paphiopedilum fairrieanum (Critically endangered) and Paphiopedilum venustum (endangered) terrestrial in nature, which are described and listed under threatened category of IUCN Red List and under CITES. The studies focusing on determining the species distribution is found necessary to understand the critical climatic factors for both current and future climatic scenarios, to take necessary conservation measures.

The project is focused on Bhutan as a whole, where a proper species distribution model needs to be determined. Species distribution modelling has rarely been used in Orchidaceae family, and its absent in the two species of Paphiopedilum.

The aims are: “to evaluate and predict the spatial distribution and coverage of ecological niches that are currently suitable for Paphiopedilum fairrieanum and Paphiopedilum venustum in Bhutan, predict the effect of global climatic scenarios on the distribution and coverage at current and future climatic conditions and to identify key conservation areas”.

Thus, the project objectives are:

1. Locate the species occurrence through field visits

2. Study the species distribution under past to current climatic conditions

3. Predict the future distributions under future climatic conditions

4. Identify critical key conservation areas.

The slipper orchids are facing serious threats with sharp population decline due to habitat loss caused by anthropogenic activities and climatic changes. The study will help us in understanding the current and most pertaining threats to the species, and in identifying their important habitats. The project will thus help in conserving and educating the community to preserve the species for future generations.

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