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Interlocking forest, grassland, and marshland patches provide refuge for the local wildlife.
The lake's flooded forest and the surrounding floodplains are of utmost importance for Cambodia's agriculture as the region represents the cultural heart of Cambodia, the center of the national freshwater fishery industry, the nation's primary protein source.
The annual rainfall is between 1,000 and 3,000 mm, locally up to 4,000 mm, falling almost entirely during the rainy season.
The Cambodian floodplain or the Mekong Plain is a vast low-lying area traversed by the Mekong River.
All Mekong riparian states have either announced or already implemented plans to increasingly exploit the river's hydroelectric potential.
A succession of international facilities that dam the river's mainstream is likely to be the gravest danger yet for the entire Tonle Sap eco-region.
Due to ineffective administration and widespread indifference towards environmental issues, the lake and its surrounding ecosystem is coming under increasing pressure from over-exploitation and habitat degradation, fragmentation, and loss.
Annual fluctuation of the Mekong's water volume, supplemented by the Asian monsoon regime causes a unique flow reversal of the Tonle Sap River.
The Tonlé Sap Lake occupies a geological depression (the lowest lying area) of the vast alluvial and lacustrine floodplain in the lower Mekong basin, which had been induced by the collision of the Indian Plate with the Eurasian Plate.
The lake functions as a natural flood water reservoir for the Mekong system as a whole by regulating the floods downstream from Phnom Penh during the wet season and makes an important supplement to the dry season flow to the Mekong delta.
A belt of freshwater mangroves known as the "flooded forest" surrounds the lake.
Threats to the lake include widespread pollution, stress through growth of the local population which is dependent on the lake for subsistence and livelihood, over-harvesting of fish and other aquatic, often endangered, species, habitat destruction, and potential changes in the hydrology, such as the construction and operation of dams, that disrupt the lake's natural flood cycle.