One of the cornerstones of Wildlife Alliance’s conservation program in the Southern Cardamom Mountain Range of Cambodia is to reconnect fragmented rainforest in order to strengthen and increase continuous forest cover in Koh Kong province. Maintaining continuous forest cover in the Southern Cardamom Mountains is critical to protect large mammal ranges and migration routes, safeguard the biological integrity of the forest’s many different ecosystems, and above all, to preserve the watershed. Wildlife Alliance’s Tropical Reforestation Project has been increasing forest cover in the Southern Cardamom Mountains since 2007. The Tropical Reforestation projects aims to reconnect fragmented rainforest with indigenous trees. The seeds of these trees are collected from “mother trees” in the surrounding forest, sewn and cultivated at our Million Tree Nursery outside Chi Phat, and replanted in several depressed forest areas throughout the Southern Cardamoms. Currently, Wildlife Alliance had planted 733,000 trees over nearly 733 hectares of former grassland that had been subject to slash-and-burn farming.
The Reforestation Project combats the impact of slash-and-burn farming and illegal logging while providing sustainable livelihoods to the very people who were previously engaging in those activities. The Million Tree Nursery has collected and catalogued 99 indigenous tree species, maintaining an important database of trees from this area. Nearly 100 workers, primarily women, work in our nursery and care for the saplings year-round or are employed seasonally during the planting season. Planting fields are clustered close to Chi Phat, but we are also replanting in Andong Teuk, Tatai, and along Road 48.
In a typical month the project works with dozens of different species of trees, starting from seeds and nuts collected in the neighboring forests. This ensures that we re-create the abundance and diversity of native plant and tree species. By planting a variety of species of indigenous trees and using a system that apes natural growth while employing current agricultural methods, the Reforestation Project provides critical ecosystem services such as water storage, ground cover, erosion prevention, and a variety of habitats for birds, mammals, and other wildlife.