Landscapes of the Greater Mekong

WWF has pioneered the concept of ecoregions (ecologically distinctive areas that broadly represent the diversity of the earth’s natural patterns) and we continue to use the region’s most globally distinctive ecoregions to organize our work.

Additionally, protected areas, often seen as the cornerstone of effective conservation continue to be a focus of many of our support programs and other interventions.
However, when habitats are fragmented by humans and turned into plantations, this can accelerate biodiversity loss. Hence, land use managers and conservation strategists are increasingly emphasizing the need to manage at the scale of landscapes.

Anatomy of a Conservation Landscape

Landscapes are typically defined at a scale smaller than that of ecoregions but larger than individual protected areas. They can be seen as having 3 distinct elements (see map below):
  • core conservation areas (where the conservation of natural capital is paramount)
  • buffer zones and corridors (where there is often a mix of conservation and production objectives)
  • a remaining matrix (containing the bulk of a landscape’s human settlement, agricultural and industrial production, and heavy infrastructure).
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The Dawna Tenasserim Landscape in western Thailand and eastern Myanmar showing 3 distinct zones calling for different management emphases. WWF-Greater Mekong supports improved management in each of these zones –as well as increased coordination between all management in the landscape—as a means to maintaining the integrity of ecosystems that support globally significant biodiversity and provide valuable services to society.
© WWF

Diverse habitats

WWF-Greater Mekong's priority landscapes include some of the world’s most diverse habitats including deciduous dipterocarp forests, moist evergreen forests, karst limestone forests, open grasslands and savannas, upland plateaus, wetlands, and pristine riparian environments.

These globally unique landscapes are home to no fewer than 20,000 species of plants, 1,200 species of birds, 800 species of reptiles and amphibians, and 430 mammal species, including Asian elephants and tigers. Moreover, new species continue to be described.
In addition to ensuring that the region’s biodiversity is conserved, conservation that maintains or improves the ecological integrity of landscapes can contribute to:
  • increased resilience and ability to adapt to climate change
  • maintenance of ecological services such as carbon sequestration
  • provision and regulation of water supplies.
By working at the landscape level, this allows us to work with a broader range of stakeholders, which helps to better coordinate activities that affect the landscapes and the natural systems they support.

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