Coping with climate change impacts in Tra Su Melaleuca forest, protecting vital ecosystem services for local communities
From 24 to 28 of April, researchers from Nong Lam University and University of Science Ho Chi Minh City, Viet Nam visited the Tra Su Melaleuca forest to interview the local communities and understand the resources they rely on within the wetland. Preliminary results of the Climate Change Vulnerability Assessment revealed that local livelihoods are highly reliant on the site’s resources. The findings will inform the development of climate change adaptation measures to strengthen local livelihoods and resilience.
Photo: ©Nong Lam University
Photo: Lotus Habitat ©Nong Lam University
Photo: Grassland Habitat © Nong Lam University
Photo: Breeding Season © Nong Lam University
The research is part of the “Climate Change Vulnerability of Tra Su Melaleuca Forest” small grant, supported by IUCN’s Mekong WET project. During their consultations, university researchers visited Vinh Trung, Van Giao, and O Long Vi communes, three of the poorest areas surrounding the protected landscape. Discussions with community members revealed that the majority rely on agriculture, particularly, rice farming and livestock husbandry as their main sources of income.
Individuals who do not own land have less stable incomes. Typical approaches to earning a living include opening small businesses such as food shops, working for landowners during the harvest seasons or leaving the rural area to find work in the cities. Ngoc, a community member from O Long Vi commune, collects basket clams (Corbiculidae) from the canals near her house. On average, she collects ten kilograms of the clams each day, and sells them at the local market, earning 100,000 Vietnamese Dong (about $4.50 USD). She uses this income to support her two granddaughters while her daughter works at an out-of-town factory.
These livelihoods only provide irregular income streams. To augment their needs, individuals will often illegally exploit resources in the Tra Su forest by catching fish, snakes, birds and gathering dead Melaleuca trunk, which is used for planting orchids. Recent cooperation between rangers and local communities has led to a decrease in the rates of poaching within the wetland. Ecotourism development, including the installation of a bamboo bridge and camera system, also serves as a deterrent, contributing to wildlife protection.
The results of the assessment have highlighted that climate change impacts will likely increase the difficulties that local people face. Future climate impacts are expected to decrease agricultural yields and increase people’s dependency on natural resources. This will affect the ability of local rangers and the management board of An Giang Protection and Special Use Forest to adequately protect the forest.
During the next component of the project, researchers will work with local stakeholders to develop livelihood alternatives to cope with climate change impacts. This is expected to increase the resilience of the ecosystem, local communities, and government.
Tra Su Melaleuca forest covers an area of 1,050 hectares and hosts 140 flora species and more than 81 fauna species. It was established as a protected landscape in 2005 and is separated from its surroundings by a dyke system, which supports water resource management. Since its establishment as a protected landscape, wild birds such as the grey-headed swamphen (Porphyrio poliocephalus) and the Asian openbill (Anastomus oscitans) have begun returning during the breeding season. The site’s diverse habitats, including Melaleuca forests, swamps, and grasslands, make it a unique attraction for domestic and international tourism. Tra Su welcomes more than 30,000 visitors annually, providing an additional source of income for local communities.
The Mekong WET Small Grants fund several wetlands projects in the Indo-Burma region. These initiatives are directly answering specific climate threats to wetland ecosystems, species, and communities using Ecosystem-based Adaptation strategies as the main approach.
Funded by the International Climate Initiative (IKI) of the German Federal Ministry for the Environment, Nature Conservation, Building and Nuclear Safety (BMUB), the “Mekong WET: Building Resilience of Wetlands in the Lower Mekong Region” project aims to build climate resilience by harnessing the benefits of wetlands in Cambodia, Lao PDR, Thailand, and Viet Nam.
Mekong WET will help the four countries to address their commitments to the Ramsar Convention, an international treaty for the conservation and sustainable use of wetlands, and to achieve the Aichi Biodiversity Targets.
The Indo-Burma Ramsar Regional Initiative (IBRRI) was jointly developed by the Ramsar National Focal Points of the five countries (Cambodia, Lao PDR, Myanmar, Thailand, and Viet Nam), and IUCN’s Asia Regional Office, based on specific needs identified in these countries. It was endorsed by the 52nd meeting of the Ramsar Convention Standing Committee in June 2016. The IBRRI aims to support the coordinated implementation of the objectives of the Strategic Plan of the Ramsar Convention. IUCN acts as the Secretariat for the Initiative under the leadership of the Steering Committee, which includes representatives from the five governments and the Ramsar Convention Secretariat as an observer.