The Wetland Book pp 1785-1791 | Cite as

Tonle Sap Lake: Mekong River Basin (Cambodia)

  • Colin Poole
Reference work entry


Located in the centre of Cambodia, Tonle Sap lake is the largest freshwater lake in South-east Asia and with a unique hydrology has for centuries been at the core of Cambodian life and culture. The flow of the Tonle Sap river is reversed when the level of the Mekong waters rise in the flood season (June-September) pushing water into the lake and increasing the inundated area up to five-fold. Vegetation of the floodplain is largely secondary in nature but the flooded forest supports populations of globally threatended species, is one of the region’s most important areas for bird conservation, and supports a highly productive and diverse inland fishery and large human population. Listed as a Biosphere Reserve with two of three Core Areas designated as Ramsar Sites, Tonle Sap is threatened with the abolition of the traditional fishery, overharvesting of fish and wildlife, transformation of inundated grassland areas to irrigated dry season rice, and construction of hydropower dams on the mainstream of the Mekong River and major upstream tributaries.


Tonle Sap lake floodplain wetland hydrology fish diversity globally threatened species Biosphere Reserve Ramsar Site traditional fishery hydropower dams 


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© Springer Science+Business Media B.V., part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Wildlife Conservation SocietyPhnom PenhCambodia

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