Using native tree species to restore dunes in Viet Nam

Degraded dune with Casurina shrubs in Thua Thien Hue province; Photo: © UNIQUE Forestry and Land Use GmbH

Degraded dune with Casurina shrubs in Thua Thien Hue province; Photo: © UNIQUE Forestry and Land Use GmbH

The new project ‘Ecosystem-based Adaptation (EbA) in the North Central Coast of Viet Nam: Restoration and Co-management of Degraded Dunes and Mangroves’ got under way in August and September 2018 with the roll-out of a series of workshops in Thua Thien Hue province and Hanoi. Facilitated by UNIQUE Forestry and Land Use GmbH and Hue University’s Institute of Resources and Environment (IREN), the events confirmed the need for EbA in the region and revealed the project’s innovative character. The ultimate aim of the project is to increase the resilience and adaptive capacity of local communities in the three project provinces of Quang Binh, Quang Tri and Thua Thien Hue in the face of severe typhoons.

So far, most coastal protection measures in Viet Nam have focused on the deltas of the Mekong in the south and the Red River in the north, thus overlooking the vulnerable North Central Coast region where many severe typhoons make landfall. Without stable protective forest cover these typhoons can wreck the dunes, which consequently threatens the local population whose livelihoods depend on fishing and subsistence agriculture. The project therefore aims to demonstrate the technical feasibility of specific EbA solutions using native and endemic tree species for restoring the protective functions of degraded dunes and estuaries in the region, which contains some 230,000 hectares of sandy coastal areas and dunes.

In recent years, Hue University has developed a wealth of scientific knowledge on the unique and extreme habitats of Viet Nam’s coast, and a total of 314 native tree species have been identified. However, the challenge remains to establish the ‘proof of concept’ for the restoration and scaling-up, a task that the project is set to address. The proposed restoration approach is cost-effective and many of the tree species selected for the project are classified by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) as endangered. The measures undertaken by the project include the planting, with the participation of diverse actors and selected local communities, of 450 hectares of pilot sites in sandy coastal areas and 50 hectares of mangroves in estuaries.

A rare intact remnant of the highly diverse natural coastal forest in Quang Tri province; Photo: © Le Thai Hung, Hue University

The project will be implemented using an integrated co-management approach, and it is expected that its pilot sites will serve as blueprints for scaling up to the landscape level. Working in this way, the project aims to reduce the vulnerability of local people living in rural areas behind the dunes, to strengthen their livelihoods and to provide significant co-benefits for biodiversity. The measures will also benefit provincial and national authorities and other actors promoting EbA.

The dunes in Thua Thien Hue province provide a crucial source of water for local farmers; Photo: © Dr Ho Dac Thai Hoang, IREN

The lively discussions held in the workshops centred on the technical challenges involved – in particular, seedling production, the needs and integration of local communities in project implementation to ensure project sustainability, and the difficulties of developing business models. Other key factors highlighted were monitoring and how to prevent the project from falling into the ‘boutique trap’ – i.e. piloting an approach that is so perfect that it cannot be replicated at the landscape level.

The project, which is financed by the German Environment Ministry (BMU) under its International Climate Initiative (IKI), will coordinate and cooperate closely with the World Bank, GIZ, IUCN, SNV Netherlands Development Organisation and other institutions to assess institutional and financial options for scaling-up and to tap synergies. UNIQUE and IREN will also develop and implement various dissemination measures to further promote the concept within and beyond Viet Nam.