Vietnam has been acknowledged as a country with high biodiversity, and as one of the prioritized nations for global conservation. The diversity of terrain, soil, landscapes and climate is a foundation for the diversity of ecosystems, species and genes of Vietnam.
In the country’s terrestrial ecosystems, more than 13,200 floral species and about 10,000 faunal species have been identified. More than 3,000 aquatic creatures have been identified in the interior wetlands. The tropical marine with more than 20 typical ecosystems is also home to more than 11,000 sea creatures. For the past two deacades, many new floral and faunal species have been discovered and described. Many of them belong to new genera and species, particularly those of mammals and Orchidaceae’s species. New creatures continue to be discovered and announced in Vietnam.
Vietnam, with 16 cropping groups and more than 800 different species, is also considered one of the world’s plant breeding centers, among eleven other centers. The national bank of plant genes is preserving 12,307 varieties of 115 species, many of which are indigenous ones with unique features. Tens of breeds of domestic livestock and poultry are also being conserved in Vietnam.
In Vietnam, ecosystems and biological resources that are a part of the country’s economy and culture, reflected by their key values in environmental protection (ecological function value); direct use (economic value); and socio-culture. Biodiversity therefore makes a significant contribution to the national economy by ensuring food security, maintaining gene resources of livestocks and plants, and providing materials for fuel, medicine and construction.
By 2006, the forest coverage, including natural forest and plantation forest, increased by 38.2%. Forest proportion has become more rational with 2 million hectares of special-use forest, 5 million hectares of protection forest and 8 million hectares of production forest. A system of 128 protected areas has been established and developed in all ecoregions nation-wide covering an area of 2.5 million hectares or about 7.6% of the territory. In late 2008, Prime Minister approved a system of 45 interior protected wetlands. Another system of 15 marine protected areas has also been planned and submitted to the Government for approval. Moreover, 2 World Natural Heritages, 4 ASEAN Natural Heritages, 2 Ramsar Wetlands and 6 Biosphere Reserves have been internationally recognized.
Nevertheless, many threats to biodiversity in Vietnam that are existing. The increase of population and consumption has put a pressure on the natural resources, leading to resource overexploitation. Rapid socio-economic development has led to the changes of natural landscapes. Changes in land use and mass development of infrastructure that have reduced natural areas, rised ecological fragmentation, and damaged wildlife habitats. The construction of many dams has blocked the flows of migratory fish. The fast increase in forest coverage might be a good sign but, actually half of the increased area is plantation and regeneration forests that are of low biodiversity. Meanwhile, rich and primary forests remain little and continue being degraded.The total number of endangered wildlife species in Vietnam is now 882 (Vietnam Red Book, 2007), remarked by an increase of 161 species in comparison to the number given in previous Red Book edition (1992-1996). In particular, there are 9 animals and 2 Lady’s slipper orchid (Paphiopedilum) species that are considered being extinct in the wild. Many other valuable and rare species have been seriously decreasing.
Besides, there are still many shortcomings in biodiversity management in Vietnam, which are presented by separated and weak management bodies; unsystematic and inconsistent legislations; poor community participation; weak planning for biodiversity conservation and development at provincial, regional and national levels; and limited investment in biodiversity conservation.