Recovering magnolia populations in Vietnam

Conservation Problem
Populations of several highly threatened magnolia species in northern Vietnam, including Magnolia grandis (CR), are declining due to logging & removal of seedlings by farmers growing cardamom in the forest understorey.

Project Goal
Our aim is to protect and enable the recovery of Magnolia grandis and other priority magnolias in northern Vietnam through patrolling, planting and reducing the impact of cardamom planting in critical habitat.

Why these species?

Magnolias are among the world’s most ancient trees and are greatly admired for their stunning goblet or star-shaped flowers. However, magnolias are under severe pressure around the world, with around half of all species threatened with extinction. In northern Vietnam, these species have lost much of their forest home to rice paddies, farms and pasture, and are now found only in a small number of protected areas.

Although these protected areas are providing magnolias with a level of protection, limited law enforcement and management on the ground means that the future of these species, including the Critically Endangered Magnolia grandis, is uncertain. Magnolia trees continue to decline due to illegal logging, while cultivation of cardamom in the forest understorey leads to extensive weeding of magnolia seedlings preventing natural regeneration.

Without our support, illegal logging and cardamom cultivation within protected areas in northern Vietnam would continue to endanger the long-term viability of critical magnolia populations and their habitats.

Adult Magnolia grandis tree in flower, photographed during field surveys in Tung Vai Watershed Protection Area. Credit: Center for Plant Conservation (Vietnam)

What are we doing about it?

Working with FFI’s Vietnam Programme, our strategy is to introduce regular monitoring, patrolling and reinforcement planting to Tung Vai Watershed Protection Area, where the world’s largest population of the Magnolia grandis is found. The site is also home to the Critically Endangered Tonkin snub-nosed monkey, providing a unique opportunity to protect and restore a habitat of vital importance for threatened plants and primates. Unfortunately, logging and cardamom farming are significant issues at this site. We are taking the following key approaches:

  • Provide support to community conservation teams to monitor and patrol critical habitat areas that include Magnolia grandis trees
  • Identify areas of critical habitat and develop agreements with cardamom farmers to protect magnolia seedlings within these areas
  • Work with local farmers to support adoption of more sustainable cardamom cultivation (helping farmers to use higher yield crops in smaller areas of land)
  • Carry out targeted reinforcement of Magnolia grandis and other trees, increasing the population size of this threatened species, and helping to restore primate habitat.

Magnolia grandis seedlings being collected from nursery en route to being planted in community forest by Tung Vai watershed protection area. Credit: Center for Plant Conservation (Vietnam)

Key achievements

We have achieved major milestones towards the reinforcement and long-term protection of threatened magnolias in northern Vietnam. Local cardamom farmers now willingly maintaining Magnolia grandis seedlings on their land, indicating a shift in attitudes and behaviour towards the species. A Community Conservation Team regularly monitors and patrols key sites for magnolias, ensuring that the remaining Magnolia grandis population is protected from logging. These patrols are highly effective, with zero logging of the species occurring at Tung Vai since 2017. Natural regeneration is now occurring where previously there was none, indicating that our work to support the species to recover is progressing successfully.

With fewer than 300 known adult individuals globally however, population reinforcement of Magnolia grandis is essential in reducing extinction risk. Over 1,400 seedlings have been planted so far and ongoing monitoring shows high survival rates, providing a major boost for the species. Further seedlings are growing in the nursery and will be planted out across sites suitable for supporting long-term survival within Tung Vai, including secondary forest and cardamom cultivated land.

Contact details

For more information on this project, please contact globaltrees@fauna-flora.org

Did you know?

Magnolias are among the oldest flowering plants. They evolved long before bees and instead relied on beetles to pollinate their flowers.