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Link between spirit forest and biodiversity conservation: case study at Son la province

02 / 11 / 2007, Eldis Biodiversity

This study examines spirit forest in two communities in Son la province, Vietnam.  Using a participatory approach, it analyses traditional regulation, local knowledge on spirit forest and community forest protection. Standard vegetation measurements were also carried out in several spirit forests in Son la province.
The study finds that Thai people at Son la province recognise two types of spirit forest:
The first is "worship forest" where people practice religious ceremonies; today this type of forest was heavily degraded, with the common size less than 1000 m2 per commune, which is not capable of saving biodiversity. However, it finds that spirit forest still playing certain spiritual and cultural roles and is important in environmental education for young generation in the mountainous area.
The second type of forest is gosh forest or "graveyard forest". Each village has about 5 ha of gosh forest, which are well protected and respected by all local people. It was estimated that there are about 12,000 ha of gosh forest in Sonla province. The protection of gosh forest was mentioned in both traditional Thai law and new village regulation. The study finds that gosh forest has a diversity of species, but is missing some key species of the North-West area, which can be explained by the small area of spirit forest (normaly smaller than 10 ha) which prevent the natural generation process.
In general, the report concludes that gosh forest in Sonla has a fairly large area (about 12,000 ha) spreading all over the province and are well protected by local people. With appropriate management, it argues that spirit forest would significantly contribute to maintaining biodiversity. It calls on the forestry and Land administration sector to address this issue in their policy formulation.

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