More than 70 million people live in Southeast Asia’s Mekong region, where trees and forests have multiple benefits for people and biodiversity. Trees lock soils in place, preventing landslides and protecting crops, while forests help regulate rainfall and water cycles. Wood and other forest products provide millions of people with food, materials and economic opportunities in rural communities across Myanmar, Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos and Thailand. The entire planet relies on the Mekong’s forests to store carbon and mitigate climate change.
But these forests are under threat. Expansion of agriculture and heavy logging have led to extensive forest loss and degradation in the past few decades. As much as one-third of the region’s forest area was lost between 1973 and 2009. Between 2010 and 2017, the five countries of the Mekong lost 300,000 hectares of forest — an area four times the size of New York City.