Intact coastal forests such as mangroves and forested sand dunes mitigate the impacts of extreme weather, erosion, and salinization. They are often classified as protection forests as they provide these and many other vital ecosystems to the local people. Furthermore, they are critical habitats for biodiversity, for example, for IUCN red list species and migratory birds. However, due to the hostile environment of sandy soils, the vegetation cover is highly vulnerable. Together with decades of overuse, Vietnam’s coastal forests have been left largely degraded: the potential area potential for restoration through enrichment is estimated to 500,000 ha along the country’s more than 3,200 km of coastline.
Since March 2018, the IKI-supported project “Ecosystem-based adaptation on the northern central coast of Vietnam: restoration and co-management of degraded dunes and mangroves” has been implemented by the Institute of Resources and Environment (IREN) of Hue University and unique land use GmbH. Its main objective is to demonstrate the feasibility of restoring degraded coastal forests with site-adapted native tree species, some of which are critically endangered (e.g., Shorea falcata). For this purpose, the team has identified more than 20 appropriate tree species and has raised more than 800,000 seedlings for 500 ha of pilot sites in the three project provinces (Thua Thien Hue province, Quang Tri province, and Quang Binh province).
The project and its pilot sites were struck hard and damaged by unusually long periods of drought and extreme storms with subsequent flooding as in the years 2020 and 2022. The essential protective functions and vital ecosystem services of these ecosystems became ever more critical considering the devastating impacts of these events. Thus, the German government, through IKI, has granted additional funding in 2021 to repair the damaged sites which showed some recovery through resprouting but only low survival rates after drought and being flooded. This support also allowed to refine the project’s technical approach, starting with enhancing the seedling quality, as well-developed roots are essential until the young trees have established in the hostile environment of low water retention capacity and nutrient levels. Thus, the establishment of a best-practice nursery in Quang Tri Province is at the center of the project’s recovery activities. It caters to native tree species needs of well-developed root systems as a critical success factor in delivering the projects’ recovery efforts and future scaling needs.
As the project enters advanced stages of implementation, the project team has many lessons learned to share and seeks to promote the upscaling to other provinces that perceive the model as appropriate for their objectives. In addition, following multiple requests for more insight and information from coastal provinces across the country, the project team is currently preparing for a national conference to be held in Huế, tentatively on April 18 and 19, 2023.
The conference aims at knowledge dissemination, sharing challenges, lessons learned, and key opportunities for wider implementation emerging from the project’s novel approach to restoring degraded sandy areas with native tree species. The event is taking place in the context of an upcoming final round of planting and ongoing recovery efforts after the storms of 2020 and 2022. Thus, the conference will focus on the latest innovations in technologies, techniques, and practices inspired by these challenges – including an on-site visit to the best-practice nursery in Cam Lo and pilot sites in Quang tri province. It provides a significant learning opportunity as to how the future success of coastal restoration projects can be assured.
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