Country Profiles

Thailand - 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.

Thailand is one of the most biodiversity-rich countries in Southeast Asia. It is located within two major biogeographical regions – the Indochinese region in the north and the Sundiac region in the south. With 15 mountain ranges throughout the country, the watersheds and main river basins connected to the Mekong River, Gulf of Thailand and Andaman Sea form a juncture of distribution for various plant species, such as temperate plant species and sub-alpine flora species from China and the Himalayas, tropical plant species from Indo-China and tropical species from other parts of Asia. In consequence, this area is one of the most biodiverse in the world. Thailand contains around 15,000 plant species, representing 8% of the world’s total. Forest area covers at least 33% of the country’s total area, with at least 18% comprised of conserved forests.

Threatened species in Thailand are numerous, consisting of 121 mammals, 184 birds, 33 reptiles, 5 amphibians, 218 fishes and no fewer than 1,131 plants. For instance, the number of wild elephants is between 1975 and 2380, wild buffaloes remain between 50 and 70, tigers between 200 and 500, while guars and bantengs remain at around 200. The kouprey, eld’s deer and java rhino have not been reported in the wild for a long time. The number of irrawaddy dolphins is plummeting as well. Some freshwater fish species have become extinct and there are more than 20 endangered species. The number of indigenous livestock is also decreasing due to the introduction of alien animals.

Thailand’s unique biodiversity is supported by a large variety of ecosystems, landscapes and habitats, most of which are also greatly threatened by human activity. In 1961, Thailand had a lush forest covering 53.35% of the country however, in 2009, terrestrial forest coverage had decreased to 32.1%. Several wild plant species have been irretrievably lost, including some species indigenous to the Toe Daeng peat swamp forest. Furthermore, hundreds of thousands of wild orchids were poached between 2003 and 2005 and sold to orchid farms and collectors. The agricultural ecosystem in Thailand harbors a rich diversity of species. The country is a sanctuary for world rice species. However, at the moment, there is rapid genetic erosion of rice due to urban rice paddy cultivation and farmers preferring to grow prolific species (with less conservation of indigenous crops). A large number of indigenous cultivated plants have also disappeared following the destruction of farmed areas as a result of natural disasters, urbanization, industrialization and dam construction.

Thailand possesses unique coastal and marine biodiversity. Along the coastline, mangrove forests comprise approximately 36% of the coastline. Currently, mangrove forests are threatened by illegal wood cutting, shrimp farming, construction of residential areas and industrial factories. Beach forests have been heavily devastated due to tourism, community settlement and port activities. At present, only a few lush beach forests exist in Thailand, most of which are located in the national marine parks. A survey undertaken in 2006 revealed that 40% of the seagrass bed in the Gulf of Thailand was in good condition, while this figure was only 20% in the Andaman Sea. These decreasing trends are a result of erosion by the current flow, net fishing and trawling, shrimp farm sewage and residues from estuaries. The largest area of coral reefs, equivalent to 25% of the total coral reef area nationwide, is located in the Suratthani Province. A survey conducted in 2007 indicated that only 5% of coral reefs in the Suratthani Province is considered in good condition, 24% in fair condition, 52% in poor condition and 13% in very poor condition.

Thailand derives large benefits from ecosystems. In particular, the country recognizes the important environmental role performed by watersheds, river basins and coastal areas, as well as their significance in supporting livelihoods linked to fisheries, recreation and tourism, among many others. For instance, a watershed with adequate forest cover provides water that supports lowland agriculture, sustains the supply of surface and ground water for domestic use, and prevents soil erosion and the siltation of coasts and water bodies. Likewise, the forest ecosystem provides ecological services that benefit agriculture, industries, water and power needs.

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.

Threats to biodiversity in Thailand include illegal hunting, crop and forest burning, livestock overgrazing, forest clearance/illegal logging, destructive fishing practices, disturbance caused by tourism and transportation activities, environmental pollution, forest fires, introduction of invasive alien species, coral bleaching and the loss of wetlands. The threats to biodiversity differ from one ecosystem to another. In regard to forest ecosystems, the shrinking of habitats for local plants and animals due to urbanization has resulted in the loss of indigenous plant and animal species. Urban and industrial growth has led to a critical decrease in (and deterioration of) agricultural ecosystems. Coastal ecosystems are threatened by illegal logging, overfishing, community settlement, industrialization and tourism development. Biodiversity ecosystems located near tourist attractions are threatened by rubbish, pollution, boat anchors and the collection of seashell and ornamental fish. In the past decade, overfishing and the deconstruction of coastal habitats, such as the mangrove forest, have reduced the quantity of marine animals available from natural sources. Notably, the amount of shell fished in the past ten years has declined by 70%. As a result, most of the large marine fish, such as shark, sawfish and ray, are now vulnerable.

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.

Thailand has developed three NBSAPs to date, with the third formulated in the light of achieving the 2010 Biodiversity Target. National policies, measures and plans are grouped into 5 strategies and 17 action plans, which serve as a framework for implementing the NBSAP over a five-year period (2008-2012). The five strategies aim to: 1) protect the components of biodiversity 2) encourage the sustainable use of biodiversity 3) minimize threat to biodiversity 4) promote research, training, education and public awareness and networking on biodiversity and 5) strengthen national capacity for implementing biodiversity-related international agreements.

A process to further update the NBSAP, which will include a suite of national targets, was initiated in May 2011. Notably, the Aichi Biodiversity Targets have been integrated into Thailand’s 11th National Economic and Social Development Plan (2012-2016).

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.

Among the major achievements toward the 2020 Aichi Biodiversity Targets is the increase of protected areas. At least 20% of the marine and coastal areas in Thai waters have been designated as protected areas and at least 5 sites of wetlands of international importance have been designated as Ramsar sites. Regarding threatened species, at least 10 endangered endemic species have been protected and restored in situ and increased in population. In addition, 98 areas were identified as important plant areas. Awareness-raising campaigns through various activities and media have promoted knowledge on biodiversity issues. The Biodiversity Clearing-House Mechanism (CHM) and the Biosafety Clearing-House (BCH) are fully operational and linked to one another.

The National Center for Genetic Engineering and Biotechnology has cooperated with the Ratchamangkala University of Technology to implement a project on rice seed production technology transfer, with the full participation of local farmers, using fragrant rice with high resistance to blast disease. The Center has also cooperated with several universities and research institutions to implement a project on the management and improvement of hot chili varieties, resulting in a collection of 752 species of hot chili from around the world. The Office of Natural Resources and Environmental Policy and Planning (ONEP) has compiled, documented and published a series of 17 books (checklists) entitled “Biodiversity Series”, containing the names of and some information on important taxa in Thailand. The development of a national inventory on traditional knowledge and/or local wisdom related to the conservation and sustainable use of biodiversity is ongoing. The royalty-initiated projects with institutions of higher education have synthesized existing knowledge into practical models to be used as methodologies in plant conservation, using biotechnology for the reintroduction of endangered plants.

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.

In 2009, Thailand adopted the National Biodiversity Policy which focuses on the protection and restoration of conservation areas. Further mechanisms include the Country Management Plan (2008-2011), promoting the sustainable use of biodiversity, and the NBSAP (2008-2012). Thailand has also established practical guidelines to facilitate activities related to biodiversity impact assessment, sustainable use and access and benefit-sharing. The country has also established criteria and regulations to control and mitigate threats from invasive alien species, namely through quarantine measures. The Biodiversity Bureau serves as a national focal point for access to and transfer of biological resources. Some departments have put mechanisms in place for access and benefit-sharing, through implementing provisions in relevant laws and policies, such as the Plant Varieties Act, Fisheries Act and the Protection and Promotion of the Thai Traditional Medical Intelligence Act.

Many departments, institutions and organizations in Thailand are emphasizing community engagement and empowerment. The Community Organization Development Institution (CODI) is the leading agency to promote and mobilize capacity-building and empower indigenous and local communities. CODI has developed a tool for strengthening local capacities called “community mapping”. As a result, local communities are able to identify the status and trends of traditional knowledge, as well as the vision and priorities required for protecting traditional practices. Thailand’s Research Fund (TRF) provides funds for research activities and facilitates the exchange of experiences for biodiversity conservation at local levels. In addition, the Population and Community Development Association (PDA) is promoting community participation in forestation by establishing local community networks, facilitating the exchange of experiences, promoting organic farming and soil conservation and providing training to local communities.

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.

Although endowed with rich and diverse biodiversity in various tropical ecosystems, Thailand is unfortunately faced with threats due to the loss of natural habitats, overexploitation, as well as from the lack of public concern and inconsistent and non-systematic biodiversity research and study. To solve these problems and facilitate the achievement of the 2010 Biodiversity Target, the ONEP has cooperated with the Kasetsart University in the conduct of a survey and inventory of Biodiversity Important Areas (BIAs) and Biodiversity Hotspots in Thailand, based on seven thematic ecosystems, with particular emphasis put on species contained in Thailand’s Red List, and endemic species. The National Center for Genetic Engineering and Biotechnology (BIOTEC) has collaborated with the Department of National Parks, Wildlife and Plant Conservation to implement a project on the Inventory and Collection of Flowering and Ornamental Plants in the Forests of the Southern Region, and established the “Cooperative Natural Research Center” at Hala Bala Peatswamp Forest, to facilitate research and networking among all related organizations. The main purpose of the project is to facilitate sustainable development in areas based on scientifically- and technologically-sound research and study. The BIOTEC group has also implemented and supported projects related to insect fungus.