Quantifying Human and Climate Impacts on Wetland Ecosystems in the Lower Mekong River Basin

Climate change and increased irrigation demand have caused a surge in hydroelectric dam construction in the Mekong River Basin. While these interventions have resulted in agricultural benefits and food security in some areas, the ecological consequences to lake and wetland ecosystems are significant but not fully understood. The complexity of interactions at the interface of land use decisions, climate change, and lake/wetland ecosystems in the Lower Mekong River Basin (LMRB) presents a grand challenge to sustainably manage natural resources and build resilient communities. It is not clear how dam construction and irrigation expansion in upstream areas will affect phenology and biogeochemistry in downstream wetland ecosystems such as Tonlé Sap Lake. Thus, there is a critical need to quantitatively understand and model dynamic interactions across these remotely connected land and water systems. The primary goal of the proposed research is to improve our understanding of how human activities (dams and associated irrigation) affect ecological processes in wetlands, and to provide a scientific basis for improved operation of dams to help mitigate the expected effects of climate change. The objective of this proposed effort is to assess and model the impacts of dam construction and associated irrigation across the LMRB on the phenology and biogeochemistry of key wetland ecosystems. This proposed project addresses “Subelement 2: Ecology at Land/Water Interfaces - Human and Environmental Pressures” of the 2016 ROSES call for proposals.