This guide does not aim to be a comprehensive manual on the use and importance of biodiversity in the farmscape. Rather, it is an attempt to provide a first step in encouraging further research and a systematic approach into a field of research that concerns the livelihood of most people in Lao as well as the conservation of biodiversity and resources.
This handbook is intended to provide the reader with a brief overview of farmscape biodiversity in Lao PDR in terms of the special habitats which exist in each region of the country and the important functions of these habitats. This is an initial attempt to look at the biodiversity which exists at the farm and certainly only scratches the surface of this important issue. It is by no means a comprehensive guide and it is anticipated that after more attention and research on this issue, a much better understanding will be gained and some of the perceptions presented may change. It should be noted that this guide is not intended to detract from the importance of the biodiversity of the remaining natural ecosystems in Lao PDR and the need for its conservation. Much has been done and documented about what exists in the natural forests of Lao PDR. Due to this reason, the focus of this guide is exclusively on farmscape biodiversity and not on natural ecosystems. Forest land encroached upon by agriculture resulting in ‘agroforestry systems” is likewise given very brief attention in attempt to focus the attention of the reader on the important diverse, yet threatened biodiversity which exists on intensively farmed landscapes in Lao PDR. Finally, a discussion on crop diversity has been purposely omitted since the loss of crop genetic diversity, although important and alarming, has long been given much attention to in other forums and documentation.
Many of the important functions of ecosystems in the farmscape, as described earlier in this handbook, can continue even with changes in biodiversity. Research shows, however, that the more diverse an ecosvstem is the better it can withstand stress and impacts from agricultural management. Yet any adverse impacts involving biodiversity can become cumulative. The accumulation of any small changes in one area over time can induce large changes in another area, particularly when critical thresholds are exceeded. When this happens, certain types of habitats or ecological functions can collapse. Unfortunately, not enough is known about these thresholds nor their indicators to know where the thresholds are or the current state of the ecosystem.