Biotic Inventory Surveys

Scientists from the Center for Biodiversity and Conservation at the American Museum of Natural History, the Missouri Botanical Gardens, and the Institute for Ecology and Biological Resources collaborated on joint surveys of three unprotected forest ecosystems in Vietnam between 1998 and 2001. The goal of these inventories was two-fold. First, to contribute directly to our understanding of the species diversity and distribution of Vietnam's fauna and flora, and to provide data with which to evaluate the biogeographic, climatic and biotic factors proposed to structure biodiversity. Second, to use this knowledge of species diversity and evolutionary processes to inform conservation decisions and to monitor local, national and regional conservation efforts.

For summaries of the survey results and species inventories, please visit the pages listed on the left.

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Ophryophryne microstoma, the Asian Mountain Toad.

Preliminary Results
Results from our collaborative survey work are still being analyzed. At this early stage there is preliminary support for some but not all of the biogeographic zones that have been proposed to explain Vietnam's species diversity and distribution patterns. Vietnam's unique biodiversity is hypothesized to be due (in part) to the overlap of more northerly and sub-tropical Sino-Himalayan biota and more southerly and tropical Indo-Malayan biota (de Laubenfels, 1975; MacKinnon, 1997). Survey results support this: taxa from north-central (1998 expedition) and south-central (1999 expedition) Vietnam contain elements from both fauna while taxa from northern Vietnam (2000 expedition) have strong southern Chinese elements. However, this research does not support the hypothesis that the Red River traditionally separating northeastern and northwestern Vietnam is a significant biogeographic factor structuring diversity differences between the two regions (Delacour, Jabouille, & Lowe, 1928; MacKinnon, 1997; Orlov, et al., 2001). Survey work at Mt. Tay Con Linh II in Ha Giang Province (2000) recorded range extensions into northeastern Vietnam for five amphibian and nineteen bird species. These results indicate that the Red River is not a primary isolating mechanism, and that species composition differences between these regions can likely be attributed to under-surveying in the northeast.


Rheinardia ocellata, the Crested Argus. Photographed at night by an automatic camera-trap in the Ngoc Linh foothills (Quang Nam Province).

In addition to these general results, some taxa-specific conclusions can be reached. First, for amphibians, survey results and subsequent museum visits indicate potentially high levels of hidden biodiversity in species complexes, both in situ and in natural history collections. Species formerly thought to be widespread (e.g., Rana livida) may actually represent a composite of smaller range species. This has strong implications for conservation decisions, reserve design, and monitoring activities. Second, the identification of a new babbler taxon and accompanying necessary revision of the genus (Jabouilleia) has contributed to understanding regional evolutionary processes and indicates the significance of taxonomic work to conservation and management decisions. Third, mammal survey results from the Huong Son Forest support both the utility of small mammals in evaluating and monitoring overall ecosystem health and the importance of incorporating these frequently under-surveyed but abundant and diverse taxa into conservation decisions. Finally, our multi-taxa survey results have uncovered a number of species new to science and multiple range extensions.


Platysternon megacephalum, the Big Headed Turtle.

Results from the biotic inventories have contributed to conservation assessments of the three research sites. Data from the 1999 survey work and RS/GIS analyses of deforestation rates were contributed to a feasibility study of the proposed Nature Reserve at Ngoc Linh (Quang Nam Province) (Tordoff, Tran & Tran, 2000). This proposal is moving forward through appropriate channels and is currently awaiting approval by the provincial people's committee and the central government (BirdLife, 2002). Survey results have also been incorporated into biodiversity and conservation evaluations of both Huong Son Forest and Mt. Tay Con Linh II (Timmins & Trinh, 2001; BirdLife, 2002).

Literature Cited
BirdLife International. 2002. "Sourcebook of Existing and Proposed Protected Areas in Vietnam." Retrieved February 14, 2002 from BirdLife International Vietnam Programme web site: (Second edition:

Delacour, J., P. Jabouille, and W.P. Lowe. 1928. On the birds collected during the third expedition to French Indo-China. Ibis, Series 12, 4:285-317.

de Laubenfels, D.J. 1975. Mapping the World's Vegetation: Regionalization of Formations and Flora. Syracuse University Press, Syracuse.

MacKinnon, J. 1997. "Protected Areas Systems Review of the Indo-Malayan Realm." Asian Bureau for Conservation, Canterbury.

Orlov, N.L., A. Lathrop, R.W. Murphy, and Ho Thu Cuc. 2001. Frogs of the family Rhacophoridae (Anura: Amphibia) in the Northern Hoang Lien Mountains (Mount Fan Si Pan, Sa Pa District, Lao Cai Province), Vietnam. Russian Journal of Herpetology, 8:17-44.

Timmins, R.J., and Trinh Viet Cuong. 2001. "An Assessment of the Conservation Importance of the Huong Son (Annamite) Forest, Ha Tinh Province, Vietnam, Based on the Results of a Field Survey for Large Mammals and Birds." Center for Biodiversity and Conservation at the American Museum of Natural History, New York.

Tordoff, A.W., Tran Hieu Minh, and Tran Quang Ngoc. 2000. "A Feasibility Study for the Establishment of Ngoc Linh Nature Reserve, Quang Nam Province, Vietnam." BirdLife International Vietnam Programme, Hanoi.