PHNOM PENH, April 18 (Xinhua) -- A conservationist group said on Wednesday that a recent Ramsar site status for Cambodia’s Stung Sen wetland is crucial to help protect the habitat of a number of globally near-threatened species.
The rich and biologically diverse Stung Sen wetland has been designated as a unique wetland of international importance under the Ramsar Convention, protecting the habitat of important species such as the Lesser Adjutant (Leptoptilos javanicus), BirdLife International said in a news release.
Located along the southeastern edge of the Tonle Sap Great Lake in central Kampong Thom province, the 9,293-hectare freshwater swamp is characterized by old-growth forest that undergoes seasonal flooding, the release said, adding that its low-stature shrub land and natural grassland provide crucial foraging grounds for the Lesser Adjutant and refuge for many water birds, mammals and fish.
“The rich feeding grounds offered by the wetland also attract a number of globally Near Threatened species, such as Spot-billed Pelican (Pelecanus philippensis) and Oriental Darter Anhinga melanogaster,” the release said.
The site not only benefits wildlife, but also plays an important role in flood mitigation during the rainy season, holding up water that would otherwise inundate nearby settlements, it said, adding that it recharges the area’s groundwater and purifies it through its aquatic plants and trees.
“Stung Sen is significantly important in the region as habitat for a number of globally threatened species, the migratory pathway and feeding ground for water birds, and important habitat for mammals,” said Reiko Iitsuka, senior regional advisor for Asia/Oceania of the Ramsar Secretariat.
Unfortunately, this area is under increasing threat from expanding and intensifying agriculture, as well as from overfishing and hunting, the release said, adding that thankfully for the species and people that rely on this abundant habitat, the wetland of Stung Sen has just been protected as a Ramsar Site.
Thirty percent of Cambodia is covered by wetlands, the majority of which have been identified as globally important for the wetland ecosystems and biodiversity, the release said.
“Recognizing Stung Sen as a Ramsar Site not only draws attention to the international importance of this wetland, but it will also be a bridge for Cambodia to nominate more wetlands as Ramsar Sites in the future,” said Cambodian Environment Minister Say Samal.
Bou Vorsak, BirdLife International Cambodia’s program manager, said attaining Ramsar status for this wetland will help draw international and national interest towards this unique site.
“Alongside international recognition, the designation of a Ramsar site enforces government protection, allowing the wetland to be managed effectively,” he said.
Stung Sen is Cambodia’s fifth site designated as the wetland of international importance (Ramsar Site).