Montane tropical forests of central Vietnam are widely recognized as an area of global biodiversity significance. The United Nations sanctioned Western Nghe An Man and Biosphere Reserve encompasses over 1.3 million hectares near the Vietnam – Laos border, and contains more than 80 threatened or endangered animal species. It is also home to more than 800,000 people and eight indigenous minority groups. Threats to wildlife in this area include habitat loss and fragmentation, as well as exploitation for the southeast Asian wildlife trade. Conserving or restoring habitat connectivity patterns between nature reserves while providing opportunities for indigenous agriculture and forest products cultivation will be important components of effective biodiversity conservation in this landscape. The U.S. Forest Service, International Program was invited to provide technical support for evaluating connectivity patterns between existing reserves as part of the Vietnam Forests and Deltas Program, supported by the U.S. Agency for International Development. Our goal was to assess connectivity of natural forest cover between nature reserves and national parks in and near the biosphere reserve to identify opportunities and priorities for connectivity conservation and restoration. We used Linkage Mapper GIS tools developed by the Washington Wildlife Habitat Working Group for this assessment.
We evaluated habitat connectivity patterns between seven designated reserve areas and identified eight potential linkages between the reserves. We also identified four high priority barrier areas were where community-based ecological forestry projects that address multi-scale ecological restoration goals might be implemented in collaboration with local land managers and the Vietnam Forests and Deltas Program. Site visits to these areas and habitat connectivity assessment training workshops for land managers and GIS analysts in Vietnam were conducted in April 2017.