A mangrove monument for local communities
Paem Krasop Wildlife Sanctuary, Cambodia
Paem Krasop Wildlife Sanctuary (PKWS) was established by Royal Decree in 1993, covering around 26,000 Hectares in Koh Kong Province of Southwest Cambodia. One part of PKWS, Koh Kapik, is also one of Cambodia’s three existing Ramsar sites. Mainly composed of small alluvial islands, it supports one of the largest and most undisturbed mangrove forests in Southeast Asia. The mangroves play a critical role in supporting fisheries, preventing erosion, providing storm protection, conserving biodiversity and sequestering carbon. PKWS also includes terrestrial evergreen forest areas and important ecological transition zones, providing habitat connectivity between the coastal area of Koh Kong and the nearby Cardamom Mountains.
IUCN has previously developed a zoning scheme for PKWS – the first (and only one so far) to be approved by the Prime Minister anywhere in Cambodia – under a 2008 revision to the Protected Area Law, and is now working with the Ministry of the Environment, PKWS authorities, the provincial government and local communities in a participatory process to develop the first comprehensive management plan for the area, that will also include climate change adaptation and disaster risk management elements.
Priority issues identified in PKWS include increased storm frequency and intensity as well as coastal erosion leading to beach migration and loss of habitat. A high rate of green mussel mortality has also been recently observed.
The project, which also includes actions to conserve threatened species within the protected area, held its first consultation workshop in late 2012. In 2013, work is centred on full development of the management plan. The project has also identified the potential for transboundary collaboration with Thailand on dolphin conservation.
Size and Location
PKWS is entirely located in Koh Kong Province in Southwest Cambodia and covers an area of 25,897 hectares.
Fauna and Flora
PKWS contains a variety of habitats including mangroves, beaches, mudflats, corals and seagrass, as well as evergreen forest with salt-water, brackish-water and freshwater areas within its boundaries, and is consequently rich in biodiversity. While there are a large number of mangrove tree species in PKWS, Rhizophera species are the most dominant. At least 15 species of threatened mammals, including dolphins and otters, and endangered birds, including the spot-billed pelican, ibis and storks, have been reported in the area. However, there has been very little in the way of systematic biodiversity surveys in PKWS, and current knowledge is consequently limited. To start addressing some of these gaps, in November 2013 IUCN Cambodia, with the assistance of the Cetacean Specialist Group, launched the first systematic baseline survey of coastal cetaceans in PKWS.
Until the early 1990s much of PKWS was degraded by uncontrolled and widespread cutting down of the mangroves for charcoal production, until its designation as a protected area and strong action by the Ministry of Environment successfully stopped this destructive practice. Over the last 20 years the mangroves have steadily recovered.
About 9,000 people are living in 13 different communities within or immediately adjacent to PKWS. Most of these people are artisanal/small-scale fishers – many fishing in the shallow coastal waters and tidal creeks with only hand-held equipment and no boats, some with non-motorised boats, and a smaller number fishing in deeper water further offshore with motorised boats. There is some relatively small-scale aquaculture within PKWS, particularly of green mussels, and some types of fishing gear that may be considered harmful such as fixed bag nets, but overall small-scale resource extraction is not considered a significant threat to the area.
Climate change scenarios for Koh Kong Province indicate stronger winds, higher waves and an increase in the frequency of storms. Observed sea level rise in the Gulf of Thailand has been between 3 to 5.5 mm per year over the last decade. Furthermore, the dry season is expected to become longer and hotter. An increase in sea temperature, changes in salinity levels, increasing acidity, frequent episodes of increased turbidity caused by storms and heavy run-off, and loss of habitat due to sea level rise, are all issues that will impact the species and habitats of PKWS and the food security and livelihoods of local people that depend on these species. All of these need to be addressed in the coming years. More immediate concerns include sand mining (for export to Singapore) and upstream hydropower developments. Although both of these are taking place outside of PKWS boundaries, there are concerns about their impacts on the ecology of the park itself.
In addition, a four kilometre long barrier beach, which moderates salinity levels and shelters much of the mangrove forest from high storm wave energy, is migrating landwards at an increasing pace, leaving mangroves smothered by sand and dead in the ocean. Mud crab and clam populations, previously abundant in the mineral-rich mud of the mangroves, have lost large areas of habitat. Since 1973, the beach barrier has moved 390 metres, resulting in the loss of 0.60 km2 of mangrove forest. The beach migration is caused by a combination of different factors, such as extensive river sand mining, longshore drift, sea level rise and changes in storm frequency and intensity.