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Fish biodiversity research in the Mekong Basin

The Mekong River is one of the great rivers of the world and is characterized by high fish biodiversity. A number of organizations are working at observing and protecting aquatic biodiversity in this hotspot of global importance. Among them are international organizations such as the WWF, Wetlands International, the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), and the United Nation Environment Program (UNEP) but also regional institutions and national line agencies or nongovernmental organizations (NGOs). We review in this chapter the activities of five international, regional, and national organizations involved in Mekong fish biodiversity research. These organizations include WorldFish, Conservation International (CI), The Mekong River Commission (MRC), Ubon Ratchathani University, and the Japan National Institute for Environmental Studies (NIES). For each institution, we detail recent projects, modes of operation, issues faced, and priorities for improved observation and protection of biodiversity.

Optimizing Water Management for Local Livelihoods in the Mekong Basin

With the high potential of hydroelectricity development, the Mekong Basin region faces a rapid, widespread development pressure in the decades to come. Cambodia, Lao PDR, and Vietnam are the main focus areas where more hydropower dam projects are to be built along the Mekong tributaries. Though such projects significantly contribute to regional and national economic growth, local riparian communities are the ones who bear the brunt of the environmental impacts they cause.  Livelihoods of local communities heavily depend on water from rivers and other natural resources in the area a complex way but this complexity is often overlooked by the environmental and social impact assessments conducted for hydropower projects. The past projects in the region, and from around the world, give us a glimpse of the magnitude of short-term and long-term impacts on the livelihoods of riparian communities.

Trading-off fish biodiversity, food security, and hydropower in the Mekong River Basin

The Mekong River Basin, site of the biggest inland fishery in the world, is undergoing massive hydropower development. Planned dams will block critical fish migration routes between the river's downstream floodplains and upstream tributaries. Here we estimate fish biomass and biodiversity losses in numerous damming scenarios using a simple ecological model of fish migration. Our framework allows detailing trade-offs between dam locations, power production, and impacts on fish resources. We find that the completion of 78 dams on tributaries, which have not previously been subject to strategic analysis, would have catastrophic impacts on fish productivity and biodiversity. Our results argue for reassessment of several dams planned, and call for a new regional agreement on tributary development of the Mekong River Basin.

Assessing the impact of dam development options on fish migrations and best alternative options in the Mekong Basin

The Mekong River ranks second in freshwater fish species richness among rivers in the world, with more than 780 species identified. More than 100 of these fish species are long-distance migrants, often travelling over hundreds of kilometers. This basin is also home to the most intensive inland fishery in the world, producing 2.1 million tonnes of fish a year (equivalent to more than three times the total annual inland fish production of West Africa).
 
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