To support the Myanmar National Ecosystem Assessment, Myanmar’s terrestrial ecosystems were assessed under the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List of Ecosystems Categories and Criteria.
A total of 64 ecosystem types were identified and evaluated. Twenty-nine (45.3%) were assigned a threatened status, consisting of 8 (12.5%) Critically Endangered ecosystem types, 9 (14.1%) Endangered and 12 (18.8%) Vulnerable ecosystem types. Accounting for uncertainty in assessment outcomes indicates that, across Myanmar, 45.3% (42.2%-50.0%) of ecosystem types qualify for threatened status. One ecosystem type, Central Ayeyarwady Palm Savanna, was confirmed as Collapsed. A further two ecosystem types, Ayeyarwady kanazo swamp forest and Southern Rakhine hills evergreen rainforest, were assessed with an upper plausible status outcome of Collapsed, although their final assessment was Critically Endangered.
Twenty-eight (43.8%) ecosystem types were assessed as Near Threatened or Least Concern. However, a post-assessment expert review by experts suggested that 11 of the 25 (44%) Least Concern ecosystems could qualify for a different assessment outcome if more data was available. These 11 ecosystems were reclassified to Data Deficient.
Seventeen (26.6%) of Myanmar’s ecosystem types were classified as Data Deficient. Data deficient ecosystem types were primarily ecosystems for which there were historical records, but with insufficient published information to assess the criteria (e.g. Rocky Tanintharyi karst). Alternatively, there were insufficient distribution records to incorporate into our mapping workflow to allow assessments of Criterion A and B (e.g. Grassy saltmarsh). Data deficient ecosystems also tended to occur in regions that were inaccessible to field researchers due to travel restrictions (e.g. Shan limestone grasslands). Urgent further work to confirm the distribution and assess the status of these data deficient systems is recommended.
This IUCN Red List of Ecosystems assessment has shown a dire situation for Myanmar’s ecosystems. Of the area assessed, nearly two-thirds (64%) is mapped as a natural ecosystem type, but of this over half (57.8%, 24,750 km2) of remaining area contains a threatened ecosystem type (CR, EN or VU). This means over one third of Myanmar’s land area contains threatened ecosystems. Furthermore, the assessment also showed that only 3.4% of ecosystems identified as threatened occur within protected areas. There needs to be an increase in conservation efforts to reverse this situation and slow the trajectory towards collapse for ecosystems that are not currently threatened. Conservation planning will be key to identify what are the best conservation actions and where to apply them to reduce the risk of collapse for Myanmar’s natural ecosystems.