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Ecosystem Profile: Indochina

Executive Summary
The Critical Ecosystem Partnership Fund (CEPF) is designed to safeguard Earth’s biologically richest and most threatened regions known as biodiversity hotspots. CEPF is a joint initiative of Conservation International, l'Agence Française de Développement, the Global Environment Facility, the government of Japan, the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, and the World Bank.

The program focuses on biological areas rather than political boundaries and examines conservation threats on a hotspot-level basis. CEPF targets transboundary cooperation in areas of high importance for biodiversity conservation that straddle national borders, or in areas where a regional approach will be more effective than a national approach. CEPF provides civil society with an agile and flexible funding mechanism complementing funding available to government institutions.

The Indo-Burma Hotspot, with its unique assemblages of plant and animal communities and threatened and endemic species, and high levels of threat, is a global priority for conservation. The ecosystem profile focuses on the Indochina Region, which covers 1,496,000 km2 of land within the hotspot and comprises all non-marine parts of Cambodia, Lao P.D.R., Thailand, and Vietnam, as well as Hainan Island and southern parts of Yunnan, Guangxi, and Guangdong provinces in southern China.

The ecosystem profile for Indochina was developed through a process of consultation and desk study coordinated by BirdLife International in collaboration with the Bird Conservation Society of Thailand, Kadoorie Farm & Botanic Garden, and the WWF Cambodia Program with the technical support of the Center for Applied Biodiversity Science (CABS) at Conservation International. More than 170 stakeholders from civil society, government, and donor institutions were consulted during the preparation of the ecosystem profile. Myanmar is not covered by this ecosystem profile.

The ecosystem profile presents an overview of Indochina in terms of its biodiversity conservation importance, major threats to and root causes of biodiversity loss, socioeconomic context, and current conservation investments. It provides a suite of measurable conservation outcomes, identifies funding gaps, and opportunities for investment, and thus identifies the niche where CEPF investment can provide the greatest incremental value.

The ecosystem profile contains a 5-year investment strategy for CEPF in the region. This investment strategy comprises a series of strategic funding opportunities, termed strategic directions, broken down into a number of investment priorities outlining the types of activities that will be eligible for CEPF funding. Civil society organizations or individuals may propose projects that will help implement the strategy by fitting into at least one of the strategic directions. The ecosystem profile does not include specific project concepts, as civil society groups will develop these as part of their applications for CEPF grant funding.

Conservation Outcomes
The biological basis for CEPF investment in Indochina will be conservation outcomes: the quantifiable set of species, sites, and biodiversity conservation corridors that must be conserved to curb biodiversity loss globally.

The species, site, and corridor outcomes for Indochina were identified during the preparation of the ecosystem profile and then prioritized as part of developing the CEPF niche and investment strategy. Selecting priority sites and corridors enables CEPF investment in site-based and landscape-scale conservation actions to focus on geographic areas (particularly sites) of the highest priority, while selecting priority species enables CEPF investment in species-focused conservation actions to be directed at those globally threatened species with conservation needs that cannot be adequately addressed by site-based and landscape-scale conservation actions alone.

In all cases, the most important selection criteria were urgency for conservation action and opportunity for additional investment. Priority species, sites, and corridors were only selected where current threats, if not mitigated, were predicted to cause extinction of species or the loss of key elements of biodiversity in the case of sites and corridors within the next 20 years.

During the preparation process, 492 species outcomes, 362 site outcomes, and 53 corridor outcomes were defined for Indochina.

Other Important Considerations
The profiling process also included an analysis of threats, socioeconomic features, and current investments to help design the most effective investment strategy. The major threats to biodiversity in Indochina include a combination of economic development and increasing human population. The two over-riding immediate threats facing the region’s plant and animal species are habitat loss and overexploitation. One or both of these are the principle threats to nearly all globally threatened species in the region.

Most protected areas in the region have significant human populations living and/or using resources within their boundaries. In addition, the high proportion of the population living in rural areas and high levels of poverty throughout Indochina mean that natural resources, particularly those of forests, wetlands and grasslands, form a critical component of livelihood strategies for many of the region's inhabitants. Consequently, poverty alleviation and biodiversity conservation are inextricably linked, as both are dependent upon sustainable management of natural resources.

Throughout the region, responsibility for managing natural habitats and species' populations lies primarily with national governments, which, together with international donors, are investing significant resources in biodiversity conservation. However, these investments are not always effective at conserving global biodiversity, and, by implication, supporting the livelihoods of local people who depend upon natural resources, because they are often incorrectly targeted, fail to address the causes of biodiversity loss, or are undermined by incompatible plans and policies of other sectors.

CEPF Niche and Investment Strategy
The CEPF niche for investment in Indochina has been formulated through an inclusive, participatory process that engaged civil society, donor, and government stakeholders throughout the region. Given the very significant investments already being made in biodiversity conservation by international donors and national governments, the relatively limited additional resources available from CEPF can be used most effectively in support of civil society initiatives that complement and better target these existing investments.

Based on the refinement of the full set of outcomes identified, CEPF investments will focus on 67 priority animal species and 28 priority sites in two biodiversity conservation corridors. In addition, all 248 globally threatened plant species in the region will be priorities for investment. Complete lists of the priorities for CEPF investment are included in the ecosystem profile.

Priority Corridors for CEPF Investment in Indochina

*As developed through the stakeholder consultation process, the Mekong River and Major Tributaries Corridor does not include the Mekong Delta Wetlands downstream from Phnom Penh.

The CEPF investment strategy for Indochina comprises investment priorities grouped into four strategic directions, which are the results of an extensive process of consultation with civil society and government stakeholders, as well as the CEPF donor partners.

Strategic Directions and Investment Priorities for CEPF in Indochina

1. Safeguard priority globally threatened species in Indochina by mitigating major threats

1.1   Identify and secure core populations of 67 globally threatened species from overexploitation and illegal trade

1.2   Implement public awareness campaigns that reinforce existing wildlife trade policies and contribute to the reduction of consumer demand for 67 globally threatened species and their products

1.3   Investigate the status and distribution of globally threatened plant species, and apply the results to planning, management, awareness raising and/or outreach

1.4   Assess the global threat status of selected freshwater taxa and integrate the results into planning processes for the conservation of wetland biodiversity and development plans in the Mekong River and its major tributaries

1.5   Conduct research on 12 globally threatened species for which there is a need for greatly improved information on their status and distribution

1.6   Publish local-language reference materials on globally threatened species
2. Develop innovative, locally led approaches to site-based conservation at 28 key biodiversity areas

2.1  Establish innovative local-stakeholder-based conservation management and caretaking initiatives at 28 key biodiversity areas

2.2  Develop regional standards and programs that address overexploitation of biodiversity and pilot at selected sites
3. Engage key actors in reconciling biodiversity conservation and development objectives, with a particular emphasis on the Northern Limestone Highlands and Mekong River and its major tributaries

3.1   Support civil society efforts to analyze development policies, plans and programs, evaluate their impact on biodiversity and ecosystem services, and propose alternative development scenarios and appropriate mitigating measures

3.2   Support initiatives that leverage support for biodiversity conservation from development projects and programs

3.3  Conduct targeted outreach and awareness raising for decisionmakers, journalists, and lawyers
4. Provide strategic leadership and effective coordination of CEPF investment through a regional implementation team

4.1  Build a broad constituency of civil society groups working across institutional and political boundaries toward achieving the shared conservation goals described in the ecosystem profile

In terms of species diversity and endemism, the Indochina region of the Indo-Burma Hotspot is one of the most biologically important regions on the planet. Discoveries of new species during the 1990s focused the attention of the global conservation community on the Indochina region. Changing political climates in several countries meant that increasing amounts of international donor assistance, including conservation investment, flowed into most countries in the region from the early 1990s onwards.

While CEPF supports civil society organizations, these groups will also have to build partnerships with government institutions, since many of the important site outcomes are protected areas vested under the management mandate of the respective government institutions responsible for biodiversity conservation. Because partnership building is part of the CEPF mandate, joint civil society-government initiatives fit within the scope of CEPF. But large areas of the landscape matrices in the corridor outcomes are owned and managed by civil society. Thus, conservation in these corridor outcomes will have to involve and include local communities, community-based organizations and NGOs.

International donors are already providing considerable support to help resolve some of these issues; yet funding opportunities exist in many of the corridor and site outcomes identified in the profile, particularly since many major donors do not have specific biodiversity conservation foci in their projects. This is CEPF’s niche and focus for investment in the Indochina region.

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