Saturday, May 14, 2011

Cardamom Mountains World Heritage Sites In Cambodia

The Cardamom Mountains of south-west Cambodia have been the subject of significant international attention in recent years. The 401,000 ha Central Cardamom Protected Forest (CCPF) was declared in July 2002. The flanking 334,000 ha Phnom Samkos and 254,000 ha Phnom Aural Wildlife Sanctuaries have been proposed for the Cambodian government’s list of tentative World Heritage Sites, and the combined area covers three Important Bird Areas (Seng Kim Hout et al. 2003). In 2004, the Forestry Administration created the 145,000 ha Southern Cardamom Protected Forest, almost connecting the CCPF to the 170,000 ha Botum Sakor National Park, to form a near-contiguous 1.3 million ha corridor.

The status and distribution of Cambodia’s avifauna is better known than that of any other faunal group, and is  now well enough understood to set conservation priorities with confidence (Seng Kim Hout et al. 2003, Thomas and Poole 2003). However, most biological surveys in the south-west of the country have taken place either in the heights of the Cardamom Mountains (e.g., Eames et al.
2002) or at low elevations to their south-east (Net Neath and Tan Setha 2001, Kong Kim Sreng and Tan Setha 2002). The southern foothills of the Cardamom Mountains have thus been poorly surveyed.

As part of an effort to fill in this knowledge gap, from 12 to 18 December 2002 a team of six field scientists, of which the two authors formed the ornithological component, conducted preliminary surveys south of the Central Cardamom Protected Forest in conjunction with the Department of Forest and Wildlife. We report here on significant bird records from these surveys.

Surveys concentrated within a section of a forestry concession, managed by the Silver Road company, at c.200–500 m (11°35–44′N 103°13–26′E). Cambodia has a tropical monsoon climate, with hottest temperatures in March and April, followed by a wet season from May to October, and coldest temperatures in December and January. Rainfall in the mountains reaches c.3,800 mm/
year. Reflecting this, the native vegetation cover of the survey area is lowland broadleaf evergreen rainforest with scattered natural edaphic grasslands including, in some instances, broadleaf and needleleaf Pinus merkusii trees.

There are also several herbaceous wetlands and poorly drained, nitrogen-deficient shrublands. However, the survey area has a history of human disturbance, including intensive logging in the early 1990s. Logging has removed a very high proportion of the large forest trees, leaving secondary, very disturbed forest, with a dense understorey of spiny lianas, bamboo and saplings. Facilitated by logging
roads and trails, hunting and non-timber forest product collection occur at a low density. Further clearance and development for mixed agriculture has occurred in the northern section of the study area, along the road to Thma Bang. Future additional clearance can be expected north from the recently rebuilt Route 48 linking Koh Kong and Phnom Penh.

Cardamom Mountains area species In total, 107 bird species were recorded, including one threatened and one Near Threatened species.


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