Vietnam is recognized as one of the high biodiversity countries worldwide with numerous different natural ecosystems, and rich, endemic biological species, genetic resources. The differentiation and mutual impact of natural factors such as climate, topography, geology and soil on the mainland of Vietnam have created 8 forestry ecological regions with specific characteristics of vegetation types and landscape while topographical, sedimentary and climate - hydrographic factors with marine environment have created 5 marine ecological zones of unique biological characteristics. Natural ecosystems in Vietnam are abundant, in which forest ecosystems include: tropical semi-deciduous broad-leaved closed forest, tropical semi-deciduous broad-leaved closed forest, tropical deciduous broad-leaved closed forest, tropical broadleaf forest, subtropical humid evergreen closed forest, mangrove, limestone forest, coniferous forest, bamboo forest. Biodiversity in Vietnam is very rich on the aspect of ecosystem diversity, species diversity, genetic diversity. Vietnam has two very unique eco-regions: the forests of the Truong Son mountain range and the Mekong Delta region, which has been listed by WWF (1998) as "Global Ecoregion 200". In recent decades many new species of organisms have been discovered in Vietnam.
The impact of many natural and anthropogenic factors has caused the degradation of forests and biodiversity in Vietnam. Forest cover has changed much over the past century, from 72% (1909) to 43% (1943) and 28% (1995). After that, thanks to the development of afforestation, the forest area and forest coverage increased every year. By 2019, the forest area will reach 10,292,434 ha, the coverage is 41.89%. However, newly planted forests are of pure species, which make the diversity of forest structure and species composition much lower than that of natural forests. Primary forests are fragmented and exploited, occupying only about 0.5 million hectares and scattered in the Central Highlands, Southeast and North Central regions of Vietnam. The area of coastal mangroves in Vietnam in 1943 was 408,500 ha, decreased to 155,290 ha in 2000 and increased again to 164,701 ha in 2017. Endangered species on the IUCN Red List (2014) include 289 flora and fauna species.
The main causes and risks of forest and biodiversity degradation include: (i) Natural disasters: storms, flooding, land sliding, fire, etc. (ii) Human activities/Proximate causes (direct drivers): transformation unreasonable and/or inappropriate land/water use, chemical war, overexploitation and illegal exploitation of biological resources, environmental pollution & climate change, alien species invasion. Root causes (indirect drivers) include but not limited to war, demographic chance, poverty and inequality, macro-economic policies, foreign trade policies, traditional shifting cultivation.
In order to restore forests and conserve biodiversity, Vietnam has actively implemented the Convention on Biological Diversity and many other international treaties related to biodiversity conservation. Many important laws in the field of forest management and biodiversity conservation have been issused and improved, the most important of which are the Law on Forest Protection and Development (issued in 1991; amended and supplemented in 2004; then amended, supplemented and renamed into the Law on Forestry in 2017, effective from 2018), the Law on Biodiversity (approved by the National Assembly in 2008, effective from 2009). By 2020, outstanding achievements have been achieved: 164 terrestrial protected areas (2,198,744 ha - 8% natural area), 16 marine protected areas, 68 wetlands conservation parks, 2 world nature heritages, 10 ASEAN heritages gardens, 9 ramsar sites, 11 world biosphere reserves. The goal of forestry development by 2030 is to maintain a stable forest coverage rate at 42-43% nationwide; 100% of the institutions-owned forest to be sustainably managed; 20% of natural forest to be upgraded in quality with improved biodiversity conservation.
Having devoted to Earth Sciences research for over 40 years, Prof. Dr. Trương Quang Hải is a Vietnamese geographer of in-depth knowledge in his expertise and broad understanding of related scientific fields to solve interdisciplinary issues from scientific and practical perspective. The main areas of research are Geography of Natural Resource and Environment, Landscape Science, Natural Conservation, Territorial Organization, ecological economics and sustainable development. After successfully acquiring a Ph.D. at the University of Sofia, Bulgaria in 1991, Prof. Dr. Trương Quang Hải returned to the country and has collaborated with universities and research institutes around the world under scope of various scientific research and exchange programs, especially participating in the Fulbright Visiting Scholar Program in the United States over the period of 1998 – 1999. He currently holds the position of Head of Managing Editorial Board of VNU (Vietnam National University, Hanoi) Earth and Environmental Sciences Journal, Vice Chairman of Vietnam Geography Association, Member of Vietnam State Council for Professor Title in Earth Sciences and Mining, Members of the National Executive Board of Special Science and Technology Tasks for Development of National Gazetteer of Vietnam, Member of the International Landscape Ecology Association, Southeast Asian Geography Association.
“Forestry and Plantations in Southeast Asia (SEA)” is the topic of a two-semester series of classes. During the summer semester of 2021, the class has already covered insular SEA, especially Indonesia and the Philippines. In the fall-winter semester of 2021/22, the focus will be on continental SEA.
Especially the Central Indochinese Highlands will be in the center of attention, and on the side of the three countries Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia. In recent decades, it is well known that so much natural forest area has been lost, so many hectares of plantations have been developed, starting in Vietnam, then spreading across the borders to Lower Laos and Northeastern Cambodia. The Vietnamese logging and plantation company Hoàng Anh Gia Lai is one prominent example. Similar processes occur in Northern Indochina as well, for instance along the Laos-China border. During the seminar and lecture series, we would like to raise some of the following questions, for example:
How did deforestation happen, and how did the plantation industry grow - causes, processes, and consequences.
How would forestry or ecology sciences, geography or sociology assess this matter?
What could and should be to done to preserve the natural tropical rain forest?
Are there are positive, effective methods to avoid the complete loss of natural tropical forests in the region of SEA, or is it doomed to disappear?
The seminar includes a number of guest lectures from experts of the field who will give insights into the topic from different perspectives.
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