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Cycle 6 (2017 Deadline)

Connecting climate change, hydrology, and fisheries for energy and food security in Lower Mekong Basin

PI: Vilas Nitivattananon,, Asian Institute of Technology; with co-PIs Sangam Shrestha,, AIT; Thanapon Piman,, Stockholm Environmental Institute; and Chheng Phen,, Inland Fisheries Research and Development Institute
U.S. Partner: John Sabo, Arizona State University
Project Dates:  December 2017 - November 2020

Project Overview:

Home to tremendous biodiversity, the Srepok, Sesan and Sekong (3S) rivers of the Lower Mekong Basin (LMB) straddle Cambodia, Laos, and Vietnam and provide food security for millions of people. An annual flood pulse provides nutrients to surrounding farmlands and sustains rice production, influences primary and secondary fish production, and cues the reproductive migration of fish species, the dominant animal protein for more than 60 million people in the LMB (Hori, 2000; Stone et al., 2011). The 3S tributaries are dammed to produce hydropower, with rapid economic growth driving the region to construct more dams. Climate change is likely to significantly alter river flow in the region, which will lower energy production from dams and threaten the timing, frequency, and magnitude of the flood pulse. Therefore, we must now assess climate change impacts on river flows, dam development and operations, and fish habitat in the LMB to reduce future risks to energy production and food security. To develop optimum hydropower projects under climate change scenarios in the 3S basin, the PI and his colleagues in Thailand and Cambodia will answer the following questions:

1. What are the scenarios of hydropower production and fish harvest under current climatic conditions?
2. How will the climate of the 3S river basin change in the near (2030s), mid (2050s), and distant (2080s) future?
3. What impact will future climate have on river flow, dam operations, hydropower, and fish habitats?

This project should contribute to developing the capacity of individuals and institutions to optimize hydropower production and the fish harvest. The researchers involved will generate very high-resolution climate data by downscaling multiple regional climate models (RCMs) from the Coupled Model Intercomparision Project 5 (CMIP5). Using this integrated modeling tool, the team will assess the impacts of climate change and hydropower operations on river flows, flood pulse, and energy and fish production, plus build an understanding of the key trade-offs. They will use a multiple optimization method (control theory) to develop decision scenarios to optimize hydropower production and fish harvest under future climate scenarios, leading to recommendations for government policymakers nationally and regionally. A multi-modeling approach, integrated with education and capacity building, can reduce decision making uncertainties under climate change scenarios and risks associated with energy and food security in the LMB region.

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