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July 19, 2010

The Wildlife Conservation Society's (WCS) work in Cambodia focuses on a suite of conservation areas including the Seima Protection Forest (SPF) in southern Mondulkiri province. Conserving these areas is however not just a question of improving their management, they also depend on the landscape that surrounds them. Asian Elephants move with the seasons, spreading widely in the wet season to search for food. Vultures travel huge distances to find carrion. For these and other species the boundaries of a conservation area are irrelevant. In addition conservation areas are threatened by the impacts of development around them. In-migration and inappropriate development can put pressure on forests and wildlife as migrants and those displaced by other activities look for land and resources.

To help address these problems WCS is working with the Mondulkiri Provincial government and World Wildlife Fund (WWF) to assess the impact of development activities and to advise on appropriate land-use throughout the province. The partnership has established a full-time Provincial Conservation Planning Advisor and facilitated the government to set up a Provincial Conservation Planning Unit (PCPU) within the office of the Mondulkiri Provincial Governor. The advisor's role is to ensure that natural resource conservation become integrated with many more provincial activities.

One of the main duties of the PCPU has been the development of a biodiversity conservation corridor strategy. This was developed as part of a regional program supported by the Asian Development Bank (ADB) to identify biodiversity corridors to offset the impact of proposed economic development zones. The project aimed to identify the most important areas of the province for biodiversity, areas that are vital to linking them and maintaining them, strategies for their conservation and recommendations for suitable development approaches. The outputs have included a series of maps that highlighted the importance of the conservation area core zones for biodiversity, a review of the impacts of development activities and a provincial level plan that identifies areas critical for conservation and those that can be developed. Most of this strategy lies within the existing conservation areas network, and will be implemented through zonation of these areas. Some other areas, such as links between Phnom Prich and Lomphat Wildlife Sanctuaries that are outside the conservation area network, have also been highlighted. The PCPU has recommended that the forest cover is maintained in these zones, perhaps through the development of community forestry areas.

This corridor strategy is a landscape level land-use plan that will help guide development for many years. It is designed to maintain large areas of forest, and maintain connectivity between different management units. It covers the full range of ecosystems from the evergreen forests of the southern Annamite range to the wetlands and channels of the Srepok river. This scale and connectivity should help maintain viable ecosystems that may be more resilient to climate change. As such this strategy now also forms the basis an ecosystem-based approach to climate change adaptation in Mondulkiri.

The PCPU continues to advise the provincial government on the impact of concessions, mining, road building and other developments. The corridor strategy will be implemented in 2010 in preparation for a proposed continuation of the ADB project. The PCPU is supported by the Asian Development Bank through the Greater Mekong Subregion Core Environment Program Biodiversity Corridors Initiative, the MacArthur Foundation and the Multi-Donor Livelihoods Facility's Civil Society and Pro-poor Marketing Program.

Posted in: Seima Forest