Lower Mekong Dry Forests Ecoregion Action Programme

Geographical location:

Asia/Pacific > Southeast Asia > Cambodia (Kampuchea)

Asia/Pacific > Southeast Asia > Lao People's Democratic Republic
Asia/Pacific > Southeast Asia > Thailand
Asia/Pacific > Southeast Asia > Vietnam

Summary

The goal of the ecoregion action programme for the Lower Mekong Dry Forests Ecoregion is to ensure the conservation and sustainable use of biodiversity and maintain the integrity of biological processes across the Lower Mekong Dry Forests.

Background

As part of conservation research and planning, the threats to biodiversity have been identified in a number of documents published over the last 10 years (Ashwell, 1996; Baker, et al, 2000; Smith, 2001; MRC, 2003; Maxwell and Pinsonneault, 2001; Tordoff, et al, 2004). The main direct threats to the Lower Mekong Dry Forest Ecoregion are: excessive hunting for trade and local consumption; unsustainable resource extraction including fishing, gold mining, and NTFP harvesting; and habitat conversion through excessive burning and clearing for new agricultural land. This is an increasing threat that has had varying degrees of impact across the ecoregion (less serious in Cambodia and Laos as compared to Thailand and Vietnam).

Hunting is a very serious threat throughout the region, while the other 2 threats are currently limited to specific areas. Habitat conversion and unsustainable resource use could become much more serious in the near future if underlying causes change significantly. Some of the root causes of the afore-mentioned threats include: (a) lack of coordination among all conservation activities, and between conservation and development initiatives; (b) rural poverty and lack of short-term economic incentives for resource protection and management; (c) population increase through the return of communities that had fled the area 2 decades ago (Cambodia), plus in-migration of lowland groups; (d) commercial agricultural expansion and land speculation; and (e) the possibility that the current low levels of logging could increase.

Hunting of wildlife for trade has depleted populations of large mammals and other valuable wildlife in the Lower Mekong Dry Forest Ecoregion. Hunters harvest a variety of wildlife ranging from large mammals of globally threatened species to small animals of relatively high value, particularly turtles and monitor lizards. Underlying causes of the hunting threat include: (i) the high level of poverty among local people; (ii) the lack of knowledge, equipment, or financial incentives for law enforcement officials to control illegal hunting; and (iii) weak laws and institutions for hunting and wildlife trade enforcement

Habitat loss, as a result of in-migration, is a growing threat to landscape integrity especially in river valleys and wetland areas. The loss or degradation of water sources would have very far-reaching ecological consequences and would heavily impact on the globally threatened large mammals, and water birds, as well as fisheries resources in the ecoregion.

There is strong evidence that logging is not currently a significant threat to the patches of semi-evergreen forests within the landscape, but as accessibility to the area is improved, logging will become more financially attractive, particularly to small-scale, unlicensed loggers. The indirect effects of logging, particularly increased access to remote areas, could be much more severe than the logging itself.

Commercial species occur at low densities and the majority of large trees grow along rivers, making logging and associated soil disturbance particularly detrimental. There is a particular problem in the potential for logging of certain resin-producing trees growing along streams, since these species’ resin production provides an apparently sustainable source of income for local people.

Proposed roads have the potential to increase the threat of unplanned settlements in these areas, as well as increased forest clearance, land speculation, and wildlife trade. Although Mondulkiri province is still quite remote, development of roads into the area is a priority of the government at national and provincial levels. Improved transportation will help with the economic development of the province, including supporting tourism based on the ethnic cultures, scenery and the recovery of the area’s wildlife populations. However, unless transportation infrastructure and other development activities are well planned, they threaten to fragment the key habitats and key species populations. It will also threaten the livelihoods of the indigenous ethnic minorities in the area due to in-migration of other peoples and ‘land grabbing’ by politically and economically more powerful parties.

In summary, the Ecoregion Action Programme (EAP) for the Lower Mekong Dry Forests Ecoregion (LMDFE), is focused on priority conservation landscapes, within which the main purpose of biodiversity-related activities is the protection, management and restoration of priority communities, threatened species populations, and support for ecological processes. Through collaborative processes, the EAP has articulated a 20-year vision statement, as well as goals, objectives and targets. It should be noted that these apply to all stakeholders within the ecoregion, and not just to WWF alone.

The 20-year vision of the Dry Forests Ecoregion states that on the basis of appropriate management of sites, habitats and taxa populations, all components of biodiversity that contribute to the global significance of the LMDFE for biodiversity conservation will be restored to levels consistent with their indefinite maintenance within the ecosystem, and the contribution of the ecoregion to global biodiversity conservation will be optimized.

Objectives

- Mobilize conservation on an ecoregional scale.
- Promote integrated conservation and development in priority landscapes of the Lower Mekong Dry Forests Ecoregion.
- Promote a supportive policy environment for conservation and sustainable natural resource management.
- Lay the foundations for lasting conservation.

Solution

Working in isolation, no agency or organization can realistically achieve the vision or plan that it has for the future of that region. The scale and complexity of landscape units such as ecoregions, requires the application of resources and skills that are beyond the reach of any one isolated stakeholder. Government agencies and conservation organizations can be catalysts and leaders of the process, but ultimately multi-stakeholder partnerships will be essential to the success of large-scale conservation planning, management, and on-the-ground project implementation.

Agencies and organizations truly committed to conserving biodiversity will have their interests better served through working collaboratively, through pursuing partnerships with other key stakeholders - governments, NGOs, community groups, universities, corporations, international policy and financial institutions, and donors - than by working alone.

WWF will act as one of the many stakeholders involved in the implementation of these plans. With support from USAID and WWF US, WWF ICP will continue to focus and build efforts to combat the suite of threats facing the LMDF, working at the ecoregion scale to reduce both wildlife consumption and illegal trade in wildlife, timber and non-timber products while mobilizing large-scale conservation capacity; working at the landscape scale to support more sustainable land use planning in order to target habitat loss, land conversion for settlement and for agriculture, proposed infrastructure development; and working at the site scale to address specific threats such the establishment of the effective managements, in Srepok Wilderness Areas of Mondulkiri Protected Forest, and in Phnom Prich.

WWF’s work supports and complements the work of many partners such as the FAO’s efforts to promote good agricultural practices, OXFAM’s efforts to promote sustainable development, the UNDP's efforts to alleviate poverty, and the Swiss government’s investment in sustainable forest management, to name a few. Finally, all of the above is ultimately in support of the strategies and initiatives of the Vietnam, Lao and Cambodian governments as they strive to improve the economic development of their countries while maintaining their natural treasures.

Achievement

- Completion of LMDFE biovision.
- Enhanced field activities in priority landscapes.
- Establishment of innovative approach to PA management and ecotourism development through piloting Southern Africa model of Wildlife Conservation by Sustainable Use.

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