Water and fire management of a peat swamp forest

Rich in biodiversity: U Minh Thuong National Park. Copyright Sharon Brown.
Published: 22 July 2015
Last edited: 09 July 2019
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Summary

The solution recovered natural conditions and protects 3,900 ha of unique peat swamp forest ecosystem. The conservation of Melaleuca trees found in this forest type is a national priority because they buffer floods, recharge aquifers and provide habitat for endangered wetland species. About 25,000 people living in the park’s buffer zone benefit through the provision of clean water and small cultivated fish.

Classifications

Region
Southeast Asia
Scale of implementation
Local
Ecosystem
Coastal forest
Freshwater ecosystems
Marine and coastal ecosystems
Wetland (swamp, marsh, peatland)
Theme
Ecosystem services
Other theme
Flood and fire management, ecosystem restoration
Challenges
Land and Forest degradation
Loss of Biodiversity
Wildfires
Poaching
Poor monitoring and enforcement

Location

U Minh Thuong National Park, Vietnam

Challenges

biodiversity loss due to artificial flooding The U Minh Thuong National Park in the southern part of Vietnam’s Mekong Delta suffered from habitat and biodiversity loss due to inappropriate artificial flooding to avoid fires. To avoid future fires after 3000 ha were burnt in 2002, the area was flooded permanently. As a result, the peat swamp forest ecosystem was degraded; bird species and biodiversity were lost.

Beneficiaries

park buffer zone residents, park staff, tourists, students, and scientists

How do the building blocks interact?

The multi-stakeholder workshop (building block 1) puts in place a process for co-management of the U Minh Thuong National Park, with a focus on the water (building block 2) and fire management (building block 3) of this unique peat swamp forest. The strong political will from all levels ensures that the joint agreement of all parties involved leads to appropriate planning and implementation of actions, including infrastructure, equipment and capacity building through suitable training of park staff (building blocks 2 and 3). The joint agreement of actions to be taken and their timely execution (Building block 1), together with the co-management approach, takes account for benefits and impacts beyond water and fire management. Interactions of all three building blocks have not only contributed to peat swamp forest ecosystem restoration, but also to provide clean water and cultivates fish in waterways which benefit 10,000 people living in the park’s buffer zone.

Impacts

1. With improved water management, no major fires occurred. The Melaleuca forest recovered, biodiversity increased, and the bird population rose by 33% over 3 years with 9 new species being recorded. The peat is a 2.7 million tons carbon sink. 2. The park supplies a clean water source and small fish for 10,000 people living in the park’s buffer zone. 3. Convictions for looting, poaching and infringements in the park continue to significantly decline.

Story

I am a ranger of the U Minh Thuong National Park. I am very proud to be a ranger in this park because it was a base for resistance forces during two Indochina Wars and because of its natural beauty and its wildlife. The park has the highest conservation priority in Vietnam. In the past most of the Mekong Delta was covered in Melaleuca forests and there were many peat wetlands and enough big fish for everyone. After 1991, my Government supported the development of the delta for rice and aquaculture production. We are now very large exporters of these products worldwide. In 2002, the area’s status was upgraded from Nature Reserve to National Park. The park is one of only two remaining peat wetlands in Vietnam. It is my job to protect the wildlife from the threats of fire and from poaching from the local people. I also work with the local people to teach them about fire safety, the value of the park to their wellbeing and have assisted them with improving their livelihoods by growing one of the parks’ endangered and endemic fish species on their farms. In 2002, a fire that is thought to have been started by local people collecting wild honey burned 3,000 ha of the Parks forest and peat. Soon after the fire, the government called on national scientists to advise the park management on how to prevent more fires in the future. The recommendation was to permanently flood the park and this was implemented immediately. After about one year we were able to see the decline of wildlife, trees became yellow and started to fall over and waterweeds started to choke the canals. In 2010, GIZ assisted the Park to implement a government funded water management practice aimed at restoring the wetlands to their natural condition through a system of gates, pump stations and canals. The changed management practice now protects 3,900 ha of the remaining Melaleuca forest and peat (2.7 million tons of Carbon) from wild fire while promoting habitat restoration. Park surveys have found avifauna in the Park completely recovered, with even more diversity than was recorded before the fire and artificial flooding. Two new bird species were recorded and the water bird population has increased by 33 % after only 3 years. I am full of pride that the U Minh Thuong National Park was recognized as Asian Heritage Park in 2013.

Contributed by

Stefan Groenewold Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) GmbH

Other contributors

Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) GmbH
Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) GmbH
Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) GmbH