The biodiversity of karst areas is poorly known and yet these systems are typically home to large numbers of severely range-restricted species. The major threats to karst ecosystems in Myanmar are poorly planned quarrying for cement, insensitive tourism, wildfires and hunting. Without attention to karst ecosystems and the species they harbour, extinctions are inevitable. Since economic sanctions have been lifted and Myanmar issued a new foreign investment law, construction is booming and so is the cement market.
Since 2014, project teams have carried out comprehensive bat, reptile and karst invertebrate surveys, leading to the description of numerous species new to science. Based on the results, eight priority karst and cave areas were selected for pilot conservation action. FFI provided training to cave users to improve the management of caves and reduce the impact of tourism and guano (bat dung) harvesting. FFI is piloting a zonation system in three tourist caves with outstanding biodiversity and promoting the adoption of best practices for guano harvesting in bat caves.
FFI is working with private companies, mining and environment government departments to ensure that the cement sector embraces biodiversity conservation through the development of Energy Information Administration policies and guidelines for limestone quarries. FFI is engaging with a leading Myanmar cement company to pilot best practices in quarry management, while identifying opportunities to offset impacts on karst biodiversity that cannot be mitigated, through extending and establishing new areas for karst ecosystem protection.