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Climate Change Adaptation in the Lower Mekong Basin

Basin-wide climate change impact and vulnerability assessment of the wetlands of the Lower Mekong Basin for adaptation planning
Project leader
Marie Caroline Bedjack and Kosal Mam
10 Feb 2011
31 Jan 2012

Eroding coastal mudflat, Vietnam. Credit Olivier Joffre
Climate change in the Lower Mekong Basin is expected to result in an increase in the frequency and severity of droughts, floods and saltwater intrusion. Such changes are expected to affect natural ecosystems, agriculture and food production, and also exacerbate the problems associated with supplying the region’s increased demand for food. The impacts of such changes are likely to be particularly severe on Lower Mekong Basin communities, given their strong reliance on natural resources for their livelihoods.
Several studies have attempted to predict the impact of global warming in the four countries of the Lower Mekong Basin: Thailand, Lao PDR, Cambodia and Vietnam. However, they have been unable to clearly quantify the uncertainty around their projections.

Climate change impact and vulnerability assessment

The Mekong River Commission (MRC) launched the regional project on ‘Basin-wide climate change impact and vulnerability assessment of the wetlands of the Lower Mekong Basin for adaptation planning’ to help strengthen climate change adaptation planning and implementation in priority locations throughout the Lower Mekong Basin. The project is undertaking an assessment of the Mekong wetlands, taking into consideration their functions and biodiversity, with the goal of developing climate change adaptation strategies. Central to achieving this is the need to develop a geo-spatial database and methodology for climate change vulnerability assessments of these ecosystems.

Basin-wide studies

WorldFish scientists are collaborating with MRC to conduct the basin-wide wetlands assessment by looking at the diverse mix of terrestrial and aquatic systems in the Lower Mekong Basin, and will quantify the threat posed by changes in hydrology and meteorology. They are also carrying out two case studies in each country in the basin, covering different wetland types and their exposure and sensitivity to climate threats and the resulting implications to the functioning of the various wetland habitats, their respective species and the communities that rely on these ecosystems.
The assessment will demonstrate the benefits of taking a geo-spatial approach to wetland vulnerability assessments, allowing for the transfer of scientific findings from site-specific case studies to the sub-basin and basin levels, all of which will influence planning and management decisions at these levels. A key output will be methodologies and adaptation guidance for planners to ‘up-scale’ the climate change assessments and adaptation responses to other wetlands of the same type. The study will also build capacity in the countries’ national agencies responsible for natural resource management and those concerned with implementing climate change adaptation planning.

Due to the uncertainty of both climate change and the future uses of wetlands, longer-term adaptation measures will need to be both innovative and flexible. The project aims to maintain existing or near natural ecosystem functions and biodiversity, whilst at the same time ensuring that adaptation measures are both timely and appropriate.