Northern Indochina Subtropical Moist Forests

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Xishuangbanna Nature Reserve, Yunnan Province, China.
© WWF-Canon / John MacKINNON

About the Area

This Global Ecoregion is made up of 2 terrestrial ecoregions: Northern Indochina subtropical forests; and Yunnan Plateau subtropical evergreen forests.

Monsoon forests distributed over a mountainous landscape create a broad range of habitat conditions from drought-deciduous savanna woodlands to montane evergreen forests.

Yunnan, the land ‘south of the clouds’, consists of seasonally humid, evergreen-broadleaved forest.

This ecoregion has the highest species richness for birds among all ecoregions in the Indo-Pacific region and ranks 3rd for mammal richness plus a tree species diversity to rival the humid tropical forests of Malaysia.

The climate throughout northern Indochina is summer monsoonal. Precipitation averages 1,200 to 2,500 mm per year.

Size:
677,350 sq. km (111,000 sq. miles)

Habitat type:
Tropical and Subtropical Moist Broadleaf Forests

Geographic Location:
Northern Indochina: Southern China, northern Laos, Myanmar, Thailand, and Vietnam

Conservation Status:
Vulnerable

Local Species
More than 183 mammal species are known to reside in this ecoregion, of which 4 are endemic and 5 near endemic.

Selected species include Asian elephants (Elephas maximus), tigers (Panthera tigris), the smallest of all bears - Malayan sun bear (Ursus malayanus), slow loris (Nycticebus coucang), gaur (Bos gaurus), gibbons (Hylobates hoolock, H.leucogenys, H.concolor), clouded leopard (Neofelis nebulosa), Tonkin snub-nosed monkey (Pygathrix avunculus), and Francois' leaf monkey (Semnopithecus francoisi).

The bird fauna here is very rich with around 707 species. Species of interest are Alexandrine parakeet (Psittacula eupatria), great hornbill (Buceros bicornis), and the green dragontail butterfly (Meges virescens).
 / ©: WWF-Canon / R. ISOTTI, A. CAMBONE
Gaur, (Bos gaurus), Kanha National Park, Madhya Pradesh, India.
© WWF-Canon / R. ISOTTI, A. CAMBONE

Featured Species

The sun bear (Ursus malayanus) is the smallest living bear species in the world. It gets its name from the yellowish crescent shape on its chest. Males are 20% larger than the females. The adults only weigh up to 65kg, and are just 1.1-1.4 m tall (3.5-4.5 ft). They have a very short, dense black coat and long curved claws which help them climb trees.

The sun bear is an elusive nocturnal omnivore which lives in hardwood lowland forests. It spends much of its time in trees, even making a nest in branches. Land clearance for agriculture and logging has reduced the habitat of the sun bear, leading to its current endangered status.

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Threats
The threats to biodiversity in this ecoregion stem from 2 main sources: land clearing for shifting cultivation, poppy cultivation, tourism, logging, and hunting for food and income. Almost all of the ecoregion forests that occur in Vietnam have been cleared for agricultural expansion.

Extensive illegal hunting poses the greatest danger to this ecoregion's biodiversity. In its supply of a thriving Chinese market, hunting is indiscriminate, targeting all species, from large mammals to small birds, reptiles, amphibians, and invertebrates.
WWF’s work
WWF has worked on programmes to conserve and protect forests, marine areas, and species. In the case of Indo-China, WWF began operating in Vietnam during the 1980s, working with the government and the World Conservation Union (IUCN) to create a national conservation strategy for the country. WWF set up a representative office in Hanoi in 1991. WWF's priority conservation programmes in Vietnam are:
  • Forest Conservation Programme: to protect, manage, restore and develop sustainable forests.
  • Marine and Coastal Conservation Programme: to protect delicate marine areas and to encourage sustainable fisheries.
  • Species Conservation Programme: To protect endangered species such as rhinos, tigers, elephants, saola, dugongs, marine turtles, and to discourage the illegal trade of wildlife.
  • Environmental Education Programme: To promote and provide skills to Vietnamese people in environmental protection, biodiversity conservation and natural resources management.
  • Policy work in Vietnam: In 2005, WWF Vietnam established a policy team. This team works across all programmes and projects within WWF Vietnam and across the wider WWF Greater Mekong Programme.
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