The IBA is located mainly inside Xe Pian National Protected Area, in southern Lao P.D.R. The topography of the IBA is dominated by an extensive alluvial plain, which is crossed by two lowland rivers: the Xe Pian and Xe Khampho. A third large, lowland river, the Xe Kong, forms the south-eastern boundary of the IBA, and the upstream section of this river, outside of Xe Pian National Protected Area, is also included within the IBA. The vegetation of the IBA is dominated by dry dipterocarp forest but mixed deciduous forest and semi-evergreen forest are found along the rivers. There are numerous pools throughout the IBA, some of which are seasonal (Duckworth et al. 1998, Thewlis et al. 1998). To the south, the IBA is contiguous with Western Siem Pang IBA (KH032) in Cambodia, which supports a similar mosaic of habitats. To the west and east, the IBA is contiguous with blocks of denser, semi-evergreen forest. The IBA supports small numbers of several large waterbird species, including Sarus Crane Grus antigone, White-shouldered Ibis Pseudibis davisoni, Giant Ibis Thaumatibis gigantea, Woolly-necked Stork Ciconia episcopus and Lesser Adjutant Leptoptilos javanicus. The populations of large waterbirds within the IBA adjoin larger populations in Cambodia, and, therefore, their viability may be greater than their small size might suggest. The open, dry dipterocarp forest is an important habitat for a number of raptor species, including White-rumped Vulture Gyps bengalensis, Slender-billed Vulture G. tenuirostris and Red-headed Vulture Sarcogyps calvus. While the IBA is almost certainly not large enough by itself to support viable populations of these three vulture species in the long-term, it forms part of a network of sites throughout southern Lao P.D.R. and northern Cambodia that may be able to. The large, lowland rivers running through the IBA are important for a number of globally threatened and near-threatened bird species, most notably Masked Finfoot Heliopais personata, Lesser Fish Eagle Ichthyophaga humilis and Grey-headed Fish Eagle I. ichthyaetus. Oriental Darter Anhinga melanogaster has also been recorded, and, while the IBA has not, as yet, been confirmed to regularly support a significant population, this might simply reflect limited survey work in the wet season. In addition, the rivers support a suite of sandbar-nesting birds, including Great Thick-knee Esacus recurvirostris (Duckworth et al. 1999),River Lapwing Vanellus duvaucelii, Small Pratincole Glareola lactea and River Tern Sterna aurantia (Duckworth et al. 1998). Another riverine species found at the IBA is the recently described Mekong Wagtail Motacilla samveasnae (Duckworth et al. 2001)
The IBA is also important for the conservation of a suite of riverine species that occur along the Xe Kong river, including River Lapwing Vanellus duvaucelii, River Tern Sterna aurantia and Small Pratincole Glareola lactea. The populations of large waterbirds within the IBA adjoin larger populations in Cambodia, therefore their viability may be greater than their small size might suggest.
Non-bird biodiversity: Duckworth et al. (1993) observed a party of four Dhole Cuon alpinus near the Xe Khampho. Duckworth et al. (1993) also found sign of bear Ursus sp. in riverine forest in the IBA. WWF (1997) found sign of bear Ursus sp., Tiger Panthera tigris, Leopard P. pardus and Golden Jackal Canis aureus.Duckworth et al. (1993) recorded two species of primate: Long-tailed Macaque Macaca fascicularis and a langur species (possibly Silvered Langur).Cox et al. (1992) encountered tracks of Banteng Bos javanicus frequently on the Xe Kong plains, and saw a small herd east of the Xe Pian river. In addition, Cox et al. (1992) received local reports that Gaur occurred on the Xe Kong plains but that they were rare.
Pressure/threats to key biodiversity
Hunting and disturbance to birds are among the major threats to biodiversity at the IBA. There are a number of permanent human settlements within the IBA and levels of human activity are relatively high, particularly along the main rivers and at non-flowing wetlands. Large waterbirds, Green Peafowl Pavo muticus and fish eagles are particularly susceptible to hunting pressure (Duckworth et al. 1993). As well as direct persecution, accidental disturbance is an additional threat, particularly to sandbar-nesting birds. Habitat loss is currently not a severe threat at the IBA, although it may become so in the future, particularly at wetlands. One potential future threat is the planned construction of a dam on the Xe Pian as part of the Xe Namnoy hydropower scheme, which would lead to changes in downstream flow patterns, with potentially serious impacts on riverine birds (Duckworth et al. 1998).
The author suggested that the Xe Paine Protected Area is as important as the Nakai Nam Theun Protected Area. These two Protected Areas are the most important Protected Areas in Laos.
BirdLife International (2020) Important Bird Areas factsheet: Xe Kong Plains. Downloaded from
http://www.birdlife.org on 06/08/2020.