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.

The importance of the fish resource in the Mekong River and examples of best practices

The Mekong is an exceptional river in many ways. In terms of fish biodiversity, it is the world’s second richest river after the Amazon (www.fishbase. org). With 6 to 18% of the global freshwater fish catch, it is also home to the largest freshwater fisheries in the world. The productive Mekong fisheries are essential to the food security of the 60 million people of the Lower Mekong Basin. Fish contributes 81% of the population’s protein intake in Cambodia and 48% in Laos. Mekong inland fisheries also provide employment to 1.6 of the 14 million Cambodians.

Fish, sediment and dams in the Mekong

The Mekong River is home to the largest inland fishery in the world, which is due in part to its exceptional sediment and nutrient loads. The number of dams in the Basin is expected to increase from 16 in the year 2000 to between 77 and 136 by 2030. These dams retain and accumulate sediments and nutrients in their reservoirs; as such, planned dam development is expected to result in a 60% to 96% reduction in sediment flow to downstream Mekong waters.

Balancing hydropower and biodiversity in the Amazon, Congo, and Mekong

The world's most biodiverse river basins (the Amazon, Congo, and Mekong) are experiencing an unprecedented boom in construction of hydropower dams. These projects address important energy needs, but advocates often overestimate economic benefits and underestimate far-reaching effects on biodiversity and critically important fisheries. Powerful new analytical tools and high-resolution environmental data can clarify trade-offs between engineering and environmental goals and can enable governments and funding institutions to compare alternative sites for dam building.

Food and nutrition security vulnerability to mainstream hydropower dam development in Cambodia

The ‘Food and Nutrition Security Vulnerability to Mainstream Hydropower Dam Development in Cambodia’ project examined national food and nutrition vulnerability arising from the potential construction of the Stung Treng (ST) and Sambor (SB) dams. This project consisted of three components: i) an assessment of the food consumption in rural households nationwide, ii) an assessment of the impacts of Cambodian mainstream dams on fish yield, and iii) an assessment of the impacts of Cambodian mainstream dams on fish consumption and food security in Cambodia.

Songs of the Doomed: The continuing neglect of capture fisheries in hydropower development in the Mekong

Since early 2007 there has been a repid acceleration in hydropower development in the Mekong Basin. The consequence of this development on fisheries in the area has been downnplayed. Aim of this chapter Discussion reverts to a 'conventional wisdom' that the captured fisheries are doomed. Fisheries are being downplayed. The aim of this chapter is to place this 'conventional wisdom' of doom under closer critical scrutiny.

Potential effects of dams on migratory fish in the Mekong river: lessons from Salmon in the Fraser and Columbia rivers

We compared the effects of water resource development on migratory fish in two North American rivers using a descriptive approach based on four highlevel indicators: (1) trends in abundance of Pacific salmon, (2) reliance on artificial production to maintain fisheries, (3) proportion of adult salmon that are wild- versus hatchery-origin, and (4) number of salmon populations needing federal protection to avoid extinction.


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