The IBA comprises the proposed Phou Ahyon (Ajol) extension to Xe Sap National Protected Area, in southern Lao P.D.R. The IBA is centred on the Phou Ahyon massif, which, at 2,193 m asl, is the largest and highest massif in southern Lao P.D.R. The vegetation of the IBA is dominated by dry evergreen forest, with Fokienia forest above 1,500 m asl, and upper montane forest above 1,800 m asl (Thewlis et al. 1998). At lower elevations, in valleys and on lower slopes, the forest on Phou Ahyon has been extensively cleared for agriculture, although most cleared areas lie outside of the IBA. The IBA supports a rich montane avifauna, including populations of several restricted-range bird species found in the Kon Tum Plateau Endemic Bird Area (EBA), such as Crested Argus Rheinardia ocellata, Black-hooded Laughingthrush Garrulax milleti and Yellow-billed Nuthatch Sitta solangiae. To date, there has only been one, brief, ornithological survey within the IBA (Timmins and Vongkhamheng 1996), as a result of which the importance of the IBA for bird conservation has yet to be fully assessed. However, the results of this survey indicate that the IBA is of high importance for bird conservation, and it is likely that it supports populations of the three bird species endemic to the Kon Tum Plateau EBA: Golden-winged Laughingthrush G. ngoclinhensis,Chestnut-eared Laughingthrush G. konkakinhensis and Black-crowned Barwing Actinodura sodangorum (R. J. Timmins in litt. 2002).
Few preliminary wildlife and habitat surveys of Xe Sap and the surrounding areas that have been conducted after Timmins and Vongkhamheng (1996) did not included the IBA area at Phou Ahyon. The survey by Timmins and Vongkhamheng (1996) was in a short time. The abundance status of Yellow-billed Nuthatch in the Phou Ahyon was not confirmed by the following surveys. The survey in the late 1997 (Showler et al. 1998) attempted to survey the Phou Ahyon, unfortunately there was the problem of security and the trip was cancelled.
Non-bird biodiversity: Scratch marks from Malayan Sun Bear were seen at several places within Phou Ajol forest (Timmins and Vongkhamheng 1996).Timmins and Vongkhamheng (1996) recorded Bear Macaque Macaca arctoides, Douc Langur Pygathrix nemaeus and a gibbon species Hylobates sp.The IBA supports the community of Fokienia hodginsii forest. This type of forest apparently dominates on high slopes and ridges.
Pressure/threats to key biodiversity
The greatest threat to biodiversity at the IBA is clearance of forest for agriculture. The extent of forest clearance appears to be greatest around the northern, western and eastern edges of the Phou Ahyon massif, and seems to be linked to local commuities' reliance on shifting cultivation (Timmins and Vongkhamheng 1996). Another major threat to biodiversity is hunting, with both guns and snares. Snaring has been identified as a particular threat to Crested Argus, especially as the density of snare lines on the lower slopes of Phou Ahyon is among the highest encountered during recent surveys in Lao P.D.R. (Timmins and Vongkhamheng 1996, Thewlis et al. 1998). One potential threat to biodiversity at the IBA is timber extraction, particularly exploitation of Fokienia.
BirdLife International (2022) Important Bird Areas factsheet: Phou Ahyon. Downloaded from
http://www.birdlife.org on 28/01/2022.