The Dawna-Tenasserim Landscape
A globally important landscape, home to diverse wildlife and communities
The Dawna-Tenasserim Landscape
The Dawna Tenasserim Landscape (DTL) straddling the Myanmar-Thai border has some of the largest remaining areas of contiguous tropical moist and deciduous forests in Southeast Asia. Over 83% of the landscape is still forested and it harbors exceptional biodiversity of globally important populations, including tigers and Asian elephants. Embedded within the DTL is the Western Forest Complex (WEFCOM) in Thailand, which is Southeast Asia’s most extensive protected area network at over 18,000km2. In addition, the DTL also includes other protected areas in Thailand as well as proposed protected areas in Myanmar. Together, these existing and proposed protected areas in Thailand and Myanmar cover 36% of the landscape. However, the remaining DTL landscape surrounding these protected areas offer tremendous opportunities to conserve the biodiversity of the region through landscape and transboundary approaches.
The DTL is recognized within WWF as one of five priority landscapes worldwide. This underlines the global importance of the landscape and the urgency to conserve it. The 178,896 km2 DTL represents the Kayah Karen and Tenasserim Moist Forests Global 200 ecoregion, which are a suite of ecoregions that represent the Earth’s most biologically significant areas for biodiversity conservation.
The intact ecosystems of the DTL provide multiple ecosystem services that support both natural and human communities. These include the provisioning of water, forest products that support subsistence and livelihoods of local communities, nutrient cycling, crop pollination, and carbon sequestration functions among others. The forests are also central to the identity and spiritual values of indigenous communities living within the DTL.
The ChallengeThe DTL landscape is facing immediate and increasing threats. The direct challenges include infrastructure projects that would see the landscape fragmented in several key locations. One of these is the Southern Corridor, referred to as the ‘Dawei Road’ that will connect Bangkok to the deep-water port in Dawei via Kanchanburi. While still in Phase 1 of implementation, the project represents a significant risk to biodiversity, ecological integrity and landscape connectivity. A multi-pronged strategy is urgently needed with a view to minimizing the negative impacts of the Dawei road on the landscape.
Another significant infrastructure development is the East West Economic Corridor funded by the Asian Development Bank and located to the north of the Western Forest Complex (WEFCOM). The East West Economic Corridor will traverse mainland Southeast Asia including linking Phitsanulok in Thailand with Mawlamyine in Myanmar. As such, the DTL will be transected in two locations: the Southern Corridor from Bangkok to Dawei and the East West Corridor north of WEFCOM. On the Myanmar side, there is also a road cutting off connectivity north of proposed Lenya National Park to the proposed Tanintharyi national park. Mitigating negative impacts to landscape connectivity is a priority for DTL transboundary management.
Other threats to the integrity of the DTL landscape include economic pressures for conversion of forestland to agriculture (palm oil, rubber, maize, cabbage) or other (mining, timber production) purposes. While areas surrounding protected areas on the Thai side have largely been converted from original forest cover, the process of encroachment, concession allocation and land use classification change is growing in urgency in the hereto largely intact landscape on the Myanmar side. It is therefore important to build upon the common interest of the various governing stakeholders in ensuring the protection of biodiversity rich areas within the landscape.