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 Plain of Reeds, Viet nam
Site Description

The Plain of Reeds is a vast wetland depression of about 13,000 km2 encompassing the provinces of Dong Thap, Tien Giang, and Lang Sen in Viet Nam, and parts of Svay Reang in Cambodia. A large part of the Plain in Viet Nam (368,000 ha known as "Dong Thap Muoi") is composed of acid-sulphate soils. The Plain lies in a flat lowland region subject to seasonal flooding between July to December. At its peak, between late September and the end of October, the Plain becomes effectively a vast lake with some areas flooded to a depth of nearly 4m. Except for scattered ponds and swamps, the Plain dries out during the dry season.

The original plain was covered in dense vegetation with small natural streams. However, massive agricultural expansion over the past 40 years has led to most natural areas being converted to rice production. Recently, the Government of Viet Nam has shown interest in the protection of two of the larger remnants of the Plain of Reeds. These sites, which will be the focus of the project activities, are Tram Chim National Park, in Dong Thap Province, and Lang Sen, in Long An Province.

Tram Chim was nominated by the Provincial Authorities of Dong Thap Province as a site for restoring the original Plain of Reeds ecosystem in 1985 by zoning 5,000 ha as a reserve. In 1992, the Prime Minister issued a special order for prompt action to save the Sarus Crane and the wetland ecosystem of Tram Chim. In 1994 Tram Chim was decreed a National Reserve of 7,500 ha and in 1999 was recognised as a National Park. The site is currently being considered for Listing under the Ramsar Convention.

The total area of Tram Chim National Park is c.7,740 ha. Canals, totalling 53 km in length, surround and bisect the site creating six habitat management plots. Melaleuca was planted for production in the past and now forms a substantial inundated forest. The site is inundated annually to a depth of 2-3 metres during the wet season. There are 22,000 people living adjacent to the boundaries of the site.

This site supports the greatest concentration of the eastern race of the Sarus Crane in the Lower Mekong Basin. Over 600 cranes have been recorded at the site from a total regional population estimated to be 1,000 individuals, i.e. 60% of the total population.

Lang Sen is approximately 23 km north east of Tram Chim and is the only area in the former Plain of Reeds where remnant natural Melaleuca forest occurs on a river channel, and thus has an important biodiversity value. The sites were once connected through the annual inundation of the Plain of Reeds. The Government of Viet Nam has proposed establishing Lang Sen as a Special Reserve Forest for the Protection of Nature.

The total area of the site is 3,280 ha and the area of semi-disturbed remnant forest vegetation is approximately 700 ha. There are lotus beds and freshwater grasslands totalling an additional 700 ha. The remainder of the site is under rice cultivation. Plantation Melaleuca forest is still harvested at the site. There are people living within the site relying on rice cultivation and its natural resources.

Habitats: Over 127 species of higher plants have been recorded on the Plain of Reeds. Habitats include:
Seasonally inundated grasslands of several types occur. One type is dominated Elocharis dulcharis, the favoured food of the Sarus Crane, and wild rice Oryza rufipogon with small patches of Melaleuca. The wild rice is one of the few remaining sources for the natural stock of this species. A second type is dominated by Elocharis ochrostachys.
Lotus swamps were a characteristic vegetation type of the Plain of Reeds, the extent of which is now reduced. It is dominated by lotus species including Nelumbo nucifera, as well as Nymphacea nouchali, N. pubescens and N. tetragona.
Inundated forest habitats include patches of semi-natural Melaleuca forest associated with Syzgium spp., Elaeocarpus hygrophilus, Ficus microcarpa and Cassia grandis. Plantation Melaleuca at various stages of growth is common, ranging from young trees to mature plantations of 9 m. in height.