Topographic mapping and management strategy, hydrological regulation for Dong Thap Muoi ecological reserve

Dong Thap Muoi Ecological Reserve is located in Thanh Tan Commune, Tan Phuoc District, Tien Giang Province, established under Decision No. 815/QD-UBND of the People’s Committee of Tien Giang Province on March 22, 2000 with a total area of 106.82ha. By 2014, the People’s Committee of Tien Giang province issued Decision No. 2368/QD-UBND on consolidating the functions, duties, powers, organizational apparatus and staffing of the MPA Management Board under the Department of Agriculture and Rural Development of Tien Giang province. Accordingly, the Nature Reserve was established with the goal of protecting the typical alum flooded Melaleuca forest ecosystem, thereby creating a stable living environment for wild animals and plants. The task of the Nature Reserve is to organize and implement programs and projects to manage, protect, conserve and restore the Melaleuca forest ecosystem, and coordinate with relevant units to propagate and raise public awareness about conservation. According to Dong Thap Muoi Ecological Reserve (2021), the reserve is home to 57 species of birds, 12 species of mammals, 27 species of reptiles, 20 species of fish and more than 109 species of plants typical of the wetland ecosystem. In which, there are 23 species of animals stated as endangered, precious and rare group such as Little Clawed Otter, Fishing Cat, Wild Cat, Civet, Painted Stork, Lesser Adjutant Stork, Great Cormorant, etc. According to Buckton et al. (1999), the NR is a place to preserve the typical wetland ecosystem of alkaline soil, one of the typical habitats of the ancient Dong Thap Muoi region.

Previously, the area bordering the NR in the North, South and East was planned as a buffer zone for Melaleuca plantation and assigned to local people for management. However, in recent years, under the pressure of economic development, more than 70% of the surrounding people have cut down melaleuca to switch to agricultural farming models (such as growing pineapple, rice, fruit trees) in the form of intensive farming (Hien & Giang, 2013). The loss of a large area of habitat in the buffer zone has had a significant impact on the NR. In addition, intensive farming can cause serious surface water pollution due to the heavy use of agrochemicals. This polluted water source is directly connected to the reserve, creating many risks for the core ecosystem of the reserve.

Hydrological management is a core element in the sustainable management of wetland ecosystems (Helmschrot, 2016). However, after more than 20 years of establishment and development, important data (such as data on biodiversity, country quality, elevation maps, vegetation, etc.) as a basis to help the Management Board implement reasonable hydrological control is still very limited. Therefore, the project has supported the development of elevation maps, hydrological maps and vegetation maps for the NR, creating an important digital map database for the NR to serve as a foundation for future development and management plans. In addition, the project also proposes necessary actions to restore the typical ecosystem of the NR to help restore biodiversity to the NR.