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Biodiversity Facts

Status and trends of biodiversity, including benefits from biodiversity and ecosystem services

The content of this biodiversity profile is still draft. The text below has been prepared by SCBD and remains subject to final approval by the Party concerned.

Vietnam is situated in the eastern part of the Indochina Peninsula and stretches over 15 latitudes (1,650 km). Its marine territory is large and consists of a coastline 3,260 km in length and thousands of islands. The country is also rich in freshwater ecosystems, possessing more than 10 million hectares of wetlands. Vietnam is also highly diverse in terms of species of fauna, flora and microorganisms. For the past two decades, many new species of fauna and flora have been discovered and described (this relates in particular to mammals and Orchidaceae).

In regard to terrestrial ecosystems, more than 13,200 species of flora and approximately 10,000 species of fauna have been identified, while more than 3,000 aquatic species have been identified in the interior wetlands. The tropical marine area has more than 20 typical ecosystems and is home to more than 11,000 marine species. Also, possessing 16 crop groups and more than 800 different species, Vietnam is notably considered one of the world’s plant breeding centres. Biodiversity resources have contributed to sustainable livelihoods over many generations through the provision of food security and health care, especially for local people living in remote areas who are directly dependent on resource exploitation.

Though forest area and cover have increased, most forests consist of low biodiversity plantations, while high biodiversity natural forests are today in considerable decline. Primary forests are fragmented and overexploited, covering only 0.57 million ha and scattered in the central highlands, southeastern region and north-central Vietnam. This fragmentation of forest ecosystems leads to the depletion of natural resources and ecological services. Primary mangrove forests have also almost disappeared. Indeed, 62% of the mangrove forests are monocultural, newly-planted and poor in biomass and biodiversity. In 1943, the country had more than 408,500 hectares of mangrove forests, with this number having been reduced to 155,000 hectares by 2005. The high rate of mangrove loss in Vietnam is now estimated to be about 4,400 hectares/year. The loss of mangrove forest leads to serious damage to biodiversity, especially in terms of loss of reproduction sites for many aquatic animals and habitats for many bird species, as well as loss of capability to suspend alumining processes near the mouths of rivers and reduce pollution or erosion. The total number of endangered wildlife species in Vietnam was 882 in 2007, an increase of 161 species compared to the number indicated in the previous Red Book (1992-1996). In particular, there are 9 animals and 2 species of the Lady’s Slipper Orchid (Paphiopedilum) considered extinct in the wild. Many other valuable and rare species have also been decreasing at an alarming rate.

By 2006, Vietnam had 128 protected areas situated in different ecoregions over the country, including 30 national parks, 48 nature reserves, 11 species/habitat conservation areas, and 39 landscape protection areas, compromising a total area of 2.5 million hectares or 7.6% of the country’s natural area. All important forest ecosystems, and endangered, rare and endemic species of fauna and flora and their habitats, can be found in these protected areas.

Main pressures on and drivers of change to biodiversity (direct and indirect)

The content of this biodiversity profile is still draft. The text below has been prepared by SCBD and remains subject to final approval by the Party concerned.

Threats to biodiversity in Vietnam include population growth and consequent consumption growth, overexploitation of natural resources, characterized by illegal exploitation of timber and non-forest timber products, unsustainable fishing and illegal wildlife hunting and trade. Other threats include changes in land use, characterized by massive infrastructure development, extension of land for agricultural and industrial plantations, introduction of alien species and climate change. Land use changes have reduced natural areas, increased ecological fragmentation and damaged wildlife habitats. Agricultural land increased from 6.7 million hectares in 1990 to 9.4 million hectares in 2002. Illegal logging remains rampant, with all forest types being targeted. Road construction for transporting wood has in fact facilitated hunting and the exploitation of non-forest timber products, placing additional pressures on wildlife populations.

Regarding freshwater ecosystems, overexploitation and mega infrastructure projects (e.g. construction of dams for irrigation and hydropower) have led to the loss of habitats of many aquatic species and to dysfunctional ecological processes in lagoons, resulting in changes in water circulation and facilitating saltwater intrusion into rivers. Most of the marine ecosystems are degrading seriously as a result of severe pollution from waste and oil spills. An increase in consumption, together with unsustainable fisheries management, have led to the overexploitation of aquatic products in many regions. Destructive fishing techniques, such as the use of explosives, poison and electricity, are commonly used in both inland and coastal areas, and considered a severe threat to more than 80% of Vietnam’s coral reefs.

Measures to Enhance Implementation of the Convention

Implementation of the NBSAP

The content of this biodiversity profile is still draft. The text below has been prepared by SCBD and remains subject to final approval by the Party concerned.

Vietnam’s first National Biodiversity Action Plan (NBAP) was approved by the Prime Minister in 1995. The second NBAP was completed in 2007, covering 5 broader goals, accompanied by specific and measurable objectives and indicators. Its key objectives were to: consolidate and develop the special-use forest system; regenerate 50% of degraded watershed forests; effectively protect valuable and endangered plants and animals threatened with extinction; establish 1.2 million hectares of internationally and nationally important protected wetlands and marine protected areas; regenerate 200,000 hectares of mangrove forests; develop exhibitions for the sustainable use of plants and animal resources; control, prevent and halt the exploitation, trade, and consumption of endangered wildlife species; examine 100% of imported species and gene resources; educate and raise awareness of the public on biodiversity conservation, development and sustainable use so that 50% of the population regularly receives information about biodiversity.

A further update of the NBAP is underway, including the development of national targets.

Actions taken to achieve the 2020 Aichi Biodiversity Targets

The content of this biodiversity profile is still draft. The text below has been prepared by SCBD and remains subject to final approval by the Party concerned.

There have been dramatic developments in protected areas nationwide, in terms of number and extent of area covered. Between 1990 and 2006, forest coverage, including natural forest and plantation forest, had risen to 38.2%, representing an increase of more 10% over this period. A system of 128 protected areas has been established and developed in all ecoregions, covering an area of 2.5 million hectares (equal to about 7.6% of the national territory). In addition, a system of 45 interior protected wetlands was approved late in 2008. Plans for another system consisting of 15 marine protected areas have been designed and submitted for Government approval. In addition to the national protected areas system, 2 Natural World Heritage Sites, 4 ASEAN Natural Heritage Parks, 2 Ramsar Wetlands and 6 Biosphere Reserves have been internationally recognized. In situ conservation takes many different forms, ranging from species and population conservation to landscape, ecosystem and ecoregion conservation. Particular importance has been attached to ecosystem-based landscape planning for biodiversity conservation through strengthening natural connections (green corridors) and linking protected areas.

Regarding ex situ conservation, the system of botanical and zoological gardens has been strengthened and expanded, thus promoting research and public awareness. Indeed, 11 botanic gardens, wildlife rescue centres and 2 large zoos have been established. The gene banks of livestock, crop plants and microorganisms have been maintained at research institutions and even further developed. The national plant gene bank preserves 12,307 varieties of 115 species, many of which are indigenous with unique features. In addition, many native plants have been planted as a result of reforestation, farm development or dispersal plantation programs. Some indigenous cattle and fowl species have been retrieved and mangrove forests are being reforested in several locations.

Sustainable use models are being promoted at the local level to the benefit of the environment and biodiversity. Such programs also provide employment and income for the local communities as well as serve as a mechanism for preserving their traditional knowledge. In addition, studies on anthropological botany have recently been conducted to review and develop the indigenous knowledge of mountainous ethnic communities in regard to their experiences with natural resource protection and utilization. Traditional practices, such as the creation of ghost forests, water-keeping forests and holy rivers, supported by local authorities, also play a significant role in nature protection.

Support mechanisms for national implementation (legislation, funding, capacity-building, coordination, mainstreaming, etc.)

The content of this biodiversity profile is still draft. The text below has been prepared by SCBD and remains subject to final approval by the Party concerned.

Measures for the protection of the environment and particularly the conservation and development of biodiversity resources have been integrated into Government policies, as well as in sectoral and intersectoral plans and programmes for agriculture, tourism, trade, finance, education, among others. National strategies for poverty reduction and sustainable development, national programmes to combat desertification and climate change, as well as regional development plans, all include measures that address relevant biodiversity issues. Biodiversity conservation has also been integrated into the implementation of international conventions and protocols (e.g. World Heritage Convention, Ramsar Convention, CITES, Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety, United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change and the Convention to Combat Desertification).

Several agencies have begun collecting fees for environmental protection, inspection and wastewater discharge licenses. Also, schemes on payment for environmental and ecological services have been recently introduced in pilot provinces to test the sustainability of financing for biodiversity conservation. New legislation, especially the Forest Protection and Development Law (2004) and the Biodiversity Law (2008), provide a legal framework for the adoption of new policies. Important regulations that relate to access and benefit-sharing, such as the Domestic Animal Varieties Ordinance (2004) and the Plant Varieties Ordinance (2004) have also been adopted. Moreover, Environmental Impact Assessment and Strategic Environmental Assessment reports, integrating biodiversity indicators, are regularly produced for infrastructure development projects.

The Government’s allocated budget for biodiversity conservation has increased in recent years through the Five Million Hectare Reforestation Program, Vietnam Environmental Fund and the Vietnam Conservation Fund. Among all financial sources for biodiversity conservation, the Official Development Assistance (ODA) constitutes an important proportion of the total investment. The Government also committed, to allocate, from 2006 onwards, 1% of the total national budget for environment protection to biodiversity conservation (although the average annual funding for biodiversity conservation has comprised only 0.4% of the total national budget). Unfocused investment, resulting in inefficient outcomes, remains one of the country’s greatest challenges to biodiversity conservation.

Mechanisms for monitoring and reviewing implementation

The content of this biodiversity profile is still draft. The text below has been prepared by SCBD and remains subject to final approval by the Party concerned.

Apart from periodic monitoring of forest resources on sample national plots, through a programme presided over by the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development, most of the monitoring activities for biodiversity have since 1995 focused on aspects of species and habitat diversity. Monitoring and evaluation results of biodiversity trends reveal that several rare wildlife species in Vietnam are under serious threat of becoming extinct. Advanced technologies (e.g. remote sensing, geographical information system (GIS), auto-trapping camera) have been applied in biodiversity monitoring activities and produced encouraging results. However, a long-term, systematic and comprehensive plan for biodiversity monitoring nationwide does not yet exist. The development of a set of national indicators for biodiversity monitoring was begun in 2007 only. At the moment, biodiversity indicators have been proposed for assessing the biodiversity of the sea, wetlands and forests. Technical guidance as well as a technical-economic framework for monitoring the biodiversity of ecosystems have also been drafted.

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  • United Nations Environment Programme